In a case decided by the Appellate Division on July 15 (A.F v. P.F.; full names redacted), the Court emphasized the importance of reducing divorce agreements to writing in order to be deemed enforceable. In this case, while at the Courthouse, the parties reached what their lawyers labeled a “Partial Agreement” that needed to be “cleaned up.” In reliance on this representation, the Judge scheduled the case for an uncontested hearing. The conversion of this draft agreement did not occur. Instead, one of the parties sought to enforce the “Partial Agreement.”
With what the Appellate Court described as “an abundance of caution,” the Judge permitted the party seeking enforcement to testify as to why the document should be considered binding. The Judge found that it was not entitled to enforcement and an appeal followed. The Appellate Division affirmed the Judge’s findings that there had been “no meeting of the minds” between the parties.
This case points out the importance of having divorce settlements properly memorialized since, as in the above case, the document in question was insufficient. No settled divorce should be finalized without a comprehensive, written Marital Settlement Agreement, as opposed to a working draft, memorandum of understanding or the like which will lead to misunderstanding and litigation.