When resolving a divorce or parenting time dispute often times one person believes that they have an agreement, but the other person does not. So is there a deal or no deal?
Usually if you agree to settlement terms, but you do not sign a written agreement there is not a binding agreement. You are free to change your mind and back out of the deal. Now there are some situations where this may not be true, for example if the other person relies on the agreement, acts consistent to the agreement, and is in a worse position after they acted or if you benefit from the other person’s actions. In this situation, the person has a stronger argument that there is a deal. Even if there is not a deal the person may be entitled to an equitable remedy so that he/she is not in a worse position and/or you are not in a better position.
In most situations there is a deal if you sign a written agreement. It does not matter if this agreement is typed out or handwritten on a napkin. If you signed it, you are probably bound by the agreement. Now if the agreement is so one-sided that no one would agree to it, you may have an argument that you should not be bound by it. Or if you signed the agreement on perhaps a wine stained napkin after a few too many glasses of red or white, you can argue that you were not in a state-of-mind where you could have legally bound yourself to an agreement. Also, if someone threatened or coerced you to sign an agreement you may not be bound. But remember in any of these situations, if you sign it, a court will presume that you agree and intend to be bound by the agreement. It is then up to you to prove otherwise.
So what advice should you take away from this – do not sign anything unless you are certain that you want to be bound by the terms of the agreement. And when in doubt, consult with a lawyer. It is not uncommon that clients come in after agreeing to certain terms only to find out that he/she did not understand the agreement.