Finding of Implied Waiver of Fees Contained in Marital Settlement Agreement Trumps Fee Claims

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In Marriage of Guilardi, 2011 DJDAR 16245 (2011), the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District decided a fee petition related to so called pendente lite attorney fees. The fees were generated from the efforts of a party to set aside a marital settlement agreement (hereinafter the “MSA”).

A couple made the decision to separate and executed a MSA. The MSA addressed the division of money, property and custody of the husband and wife’s daughter.

After the MSA was negotiated, it was incorporated into a final judgment which was approved by the court. Subsequently, the wife moved to set aside the judgment and the MSA on numerous grounds, including the alleged non disclosure of key facts by the husband. The family court denied the motion, even though it concluded that the MSA was inequitable as applied to the wife’s financial situation. However, the court concluded that the mere fact that the MSA was not equitable was insufficient to invalidate the agreement in its entirety. The court was influenced by the fact that the wife had allegedly willingly entered into the MSA.

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