Informal Settlement

Family Law Articles

At any point during litigation informal settlement may occur.  An attorney that is actively moving a case along and trying to resolve the case as efficiently as possible is always looking at what information is needed for the parties to negotiate a settlement.  Settlement can occur at any point in the case when everyone has sufficient information to make informed decisions. 

Once everyone has sufficient information to make informed decisions about the settlement of the case, the attorney and client prepare a settlement offer which is then sent to the other attorney or party.  Attorneys have a legal obligation to share ALL settlement offers, no matter how ridiculous or acceptable, with the client.  However, there is no requirement that the client or attorney respond to a settlement offer.  Sometimes the parties continue to negotiate and send various offers to each other until they reach an agreement for partial or complete settlement of the case. 

What is a Rule 11 Agreement and How is it Used for Settlement?

Once an agreement is reached, it is common for the attorneys to sign a written rendition of the agreement or read it into the court record with a court reporter documenting the terms of the settlement agreement.  If the attorneys are drafting a written rendition of the settlement agreement it may be in the form of a Rule 11 Agreement.  Rule 11 Agreement gets its name from Rule 11 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. 

Rule 11 Agreements are often used to detail the terms of the agreement quickly while the lengthy and detailed Order takes several weeks to draft and circulate for signatures and entry with the Court.  The Rule 11 Agreement is a document that is signed by the attorneys and submitted to the Court.  It becomes an order of the Court upon filing it.  While a Rule 11 Agreement is a quick and inexpensive way to document the terms of the agreement and notify the court of the settlement, there are ways for a party to change their mind and revoke agreement to the Rule 11 Agreement.  This is why attorneys use them for less important decisions that are not likely to be revoked by either party

What is a Drive By Mediation and How is it Used for Settlement?

When concerned that a party might later revoke consent to an agreement then it is more appropriate to a Mediated Settlement Agreement to document the agreement.  While a Mediated Settlement Agreement requires paying a mediator to circulate the agreement as a Mediated Settlement Agreement, the cost is well worth the certainty it provides.  While the parties did not reach this agreement during a mediation, they can still attend a short mediation, usually an hour or less, and present the agreement to the mediator.  This is called a Drive By Mediation.  The mediator will add the agreement terms to a Mediated Settlement Agreement and have everyone sign it.   Once this Mediated Settlement Agreement is signed by everyone it cannot be revoked.  The Mediated Settlement Agreement is enforceable so nobody can change their mind.  This provides certainty of the settlement terms and allows the attorneys to draft the Order containing the terms over the next 4-6 weeks without fear that someone is going to back out of the settlement. 

An experienced family law attorney is always looking for ways to move a case forward.  Settlement can occur at any stage of the litigation process.  While preparing the case for trial, opportunities for settlement should always be explored.  Robin R. Zegen knows settlement saves clients time, money and the stress of litigation and she uses settlement negotiations where and when appropriate.  Call Robin R. Zegen today to discuss the options available for your divorce or custody case today.