Many divorces are lengthy and contentious, so when an opportunity arises to settle even a single issue, it is important to take advantage of it. Court appearances often result in meaningful discussions about unresolved issues. The parties and their attorneys are face-to-face, which may lend itself to more productive conversations. In addition, the reality of being in court may encourage parties to consider the consequences and cost of litigating their conflicts. However, if you are considering settling your divorce dispute on the courthouse steps, there are a few important steps to take to protect your rights.
How to Memorialize the Terms of Your Agreement
It may be tempting to handwrite an agreement while you are still in court. However, this can be risky because you may not think of all the important issues or how what you are agreeing to may play out at that moment. If you forget to address something in the agreement, it may be difficult to modify the agreement later, particularly if it conflicts with the terms you already agreed to in writing.
A better way to document your settlement terms is for both parties to stipulate on record in court what they agree to do. On record means that the attorneys tell the judge what the agreement is while the court reporter simultaneously types the conversation into a device that will later be transcribed on paper. The written transcript can then be obtained and ultimately incorporated into a written document that the parties would sign at a later date. Other provisions can be added to the written document before signing to clarify and supplement the agreement as long as they do not directly conflict with what was said in court unless the parties thereafter agree. For example, the parties may agree that the noncustodial parent gets parenting time with the child every other weekend. However, subsequently, they realize there are several scheduling conflicts. The written agreement can adjust specific dates provided it is consistent with the general terms stated in court. This gives the parties the ability to make revisions to account for issues that they didn’t consider when they were in the courthouse.
Benefits of Settling
When parties can settle a dispute rather than litigate it, they save time and money. Often, they are also more satisfied with the result because they can tailor a solution to meet their needs and each side gets some benefit. Leaving matters to a judge to decide means taking the chance you will lose and, more importantly, giving control of the matter to a third party who doesn’t understand the situation as well as you do.
However, settlement is not always achievable. Further, even if you can come to an agreement, you must take care that your settlement agreement is well-drafted with precise terms that consider all relevant issues.
If you are considering divorce, it is important to get an attorney with the experience and skills to handle your divorce matter in court and outside it. Contact us to learn how we can help you with your divorce.