Circular integrated optical (ring or disk) microresonators are increasingly employed as compact and versatile wavelength filters. In this paper, we investigate a 2-D frequency domain model for these devices, based on spatial coupled mode theory. The microresonators are functionally represented in terms of two couplers with appropriate connections using bent and straight waveguides. The abstract scattering matrices of the couplers and the propagation constants of the cavity bends allow to compute the spectral responses of the resonators. Capitalizing on the availability of rigorous analytical modal solutions for bent waveguides, the constituent bent-straight waveguide couplers are modeled using a spatial coupled mode formalism derived by means of a variational principle. The resulting scattering matrices show reciprocity properties as expected according to the symmetry of the coupler structures. We present results for the spectral response and field examples for microresonators with mono- and multi-modal cavities for TE and TM polarizations. Comparisons with finite difference time domain simulations show very good overall agreement. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.