Guide to Contracts and Agreements in California

Here are contract related laws specific to California. For more general contract law, see our Guide to Contracts and Agreements in the U.S.

I signed a contract but now I changed my mind. What are my options?

In California, consumers have the right to cancel certain contracts within a specified time period after signing the contract. These are often referred to as cooling off periods. See our Guide to Contract Cooling Off Periods in California.

If a cooling off period does not apply, you may also have a right to cancel or rescind a contract if one or more of the following applies:1CA Civ. Code Sec. 1689

  • the other party to the contract lied about a substantial aspect of the transaction (fraud),
  • you gave consent by mistake or under extreme pressure (duress or undue influence),
  • the agreement falls through for some reason that was not your fault.

Keep in mind that these circumstances are often difficult to prove. For more, see our Guide to Getting Out of a Contract.

How do I enforce a contract in California?

If the other party to a contract is not doing what they agreed to do, or has violated the agreement in a significant way, this is called a breach of contract. You can start out by simply declaring to them that they have breached the agreement and you intend to enforce it. If they don’t comply, then you may want to file a lawsuit against them.

Importantly, you must be able to prove your claims to the court. In the case of a handshake deal or oral agreement, you may need to prove that there was a binding agreement in the first place (unless the other party concedes this). This can be difficult unless you have witnesses or circumstantial evidence of some kind.

To sue for relatively small amounts of money, you can use California Small Claims court.

Can I get my attorney fees paid for if I sue to enforce a contract and win?

The prevailing party in a lawsuit may get the losing party to pay for the winner’s (reasonable) attorney’s fees ONLY if authorized specifically by the contract at issue, or by the specific statute you are suing under.2Code of Civil Procedure Sec 685.040 If the contract provides for an “attorneys fee” clause that applies to one party only, this is generally automatically interpreted as mutual and reciprocal unless a specific statute says otherwise.3Civ Code 1717

Are non-compete agreements enforceable in California?

Most agreements that prohibit an employee from working for a competing company are not valid. However, these may be enforceable against prior owners of a company. See our Guide to Employee Rights for more.


For much more about contracts, see our Guide to Contracts and Agreements in the U.S.

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  • Tristan Blaine

    Tristan Blaine is the founder of Law Soup Media, and has been a licensed attorney since 2013.

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