The Family Law Leader

Q: I went to court recently and we had a settlement conference. At that meeting, we agreed on a settlement. My lawyer put the settlement on the record, and I agreed to it. When I got home, I felt sick. I felt like the process was extremely rushed and that I was under pressure. Can I back out of the settlement?

A: Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to back out of a settlement once it has been placed on the record in open court. Unless you can prove that the other party somehow deceived or tricked you, or that there was a mistake of fact that lead you to enter into the settlement, or a clerical error, you are most likely going to be stuck with the agreement.

The law provides that verbal settlements on the record in open court are generally enforceable, even if they are not reduced to writing. Therefore, before you agree to any settlement, make sure you fully understand the terms of the agreement. It is not uncommon for people to feel rushed, pressured, or even bullied during settlement negotiations. But if you are represented by counsel, and if you cannot point to a specific mistake of fact that lead you to enter into a settlement that you otherwise would not have agreed upon, it is very difficult to convince a court to undo a settlement that has been placed on the record. So be sure you talk to your attorney in advance of any settlement discussions, and be sure you fully understand the terms of any settlement before you agree on it in court. Otherwise, you may be forced to live with the agreement, even if you think better of it after the pressure of court has subsided.

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