When is an agreement reached?  Can an agreement be reached before the Marital Settlement Agreement is signed by both parties?  Are verbal agreements binding (i.e. legally enforceable) when they arise during conversations at home, during conferences with attorneys, or at mediation?

What if one party believes that an issue or the entire case is settled and the other party denies that an agreement exists?  Then what?  Evidence of an agreement would certainly be helpful to your position.

If you or someone you know is in this type of situation, it is very likely that you have heard the term “Harrington Hearing”.  Typically, the spouse whose position it is that a settlement agreement exists will likely seek relief from the court in the form of a Harrington Hearing.  A Harrington Hearing is a court hearing consisting of any and all testimony and evidence relevant to whether an agreement exists.

There are ways to avoid a dispute over whether an agreement exists.  As a practical matter, the best evidence is when the terms of a settlement are typed or written onto a document that bears both parties’ signatures.  Many times, attorneys put settlement terms on the record when an agreement is reached at court.  In addition, most mediators advise their clients that settlement is not final until the parties have agreed to the terms outlined in the Mediator’s Memorandum of Understanding.

A family law attorney can be extremely helpful in these types of situations because he/she will know when and what to put on paper.  Is it wise for you to piecemeal your settlement or only settle your case from a global perspective?  Our firm can help.  Call us at (908) 879-9499 to schedule a consultation.

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