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New York Family Law Courts encourage divorcing couples to settle their differences. This includes working to settle issues surrounding financial matters, children, and other elements associated with the dissolution of a marriage. This is undertaken through the process of negotiation between the divorcing spouses, with the aid and assistance of their lawyers.
When spouses reach agreement in regard to issues in a divorce case, those decisions are incorporated into a settlement agreement, according to Cornell Law School. The settlement agreement is then signed by both spouses and submitted to the court for approval. The settlement agreement is made part of the final divorce decree, once it has been approved by the court.
You may have reached a juncture in your divorce case at which an attempt at settling the case is not working, at least in your mind. You and your spouse may have prepared a draft settlement agreement. Your spouse may have signed the document, but you have not.
You spouse may not be threatening to submit the settlement agreement to the court without your signature. You may now wonder what effect your spouse’s submission of a settlement agreement to the court without your signature.
A Settlement Agreement is a Binding Contract
At its essence, a settlement agreement is a binding a contract. A contract does not come into existence unless and until both parties have signed the document. If you have not signed the settlement agreement as of this time, for one reason or another, there is no binding contract between you and your spouse. Therefore, even if your spouse submits a settlement agreement without your signature to the court, that will not bind you to the agreement.
Further Court Proceedings
The submission of a partially unsigned settlement agreement to the court is likely to spur the judge to set the case for further proceedings. These could include a settlement conference involving the court.
A settlement conference before the court is a situation in which the judge brings the parties to a divorce together, along with their attorneys. The court will explore the possibility that the court can still be settlement. The judge is also apt to require the parties and their attorneys to spend some time discussing a settlement while at the courthouse.
If you do not reach a juncture at which you are willing to sign a settlement agreement, the final phase of a New York divorce case is a trial. The court ultimately will schedule the matter for a trial.
A divorce trial is quite like a trial in other types of cases. However, the primary difference is that a divorce trial is before the judge and not a judge and jury.
When a divorce trial occurs, both you and your spouse will have the opportunity to present your cases to the court. The judge will then make decisions regarding issues upon which you and your spouse have not reached an agreement in your divorce case. Ultimately, after considering all the evidence, the Family Court will issue a final decree in your marriage dissolution case.
Retain a New York Divorce Lawyer
Due to the complexities of a marriage dissolution case, you likely best protect your legal rights and interests by hiring a skilled, experienced New York divorce attorney. The first step in engaging professional legal representation in your divorce case is to schedule an initial consultation.
At an initial consultation, a divorce lawyer will provide you with an evaluation of your case. Legal counsel will also provide you with more detailed issues about matters like a proposed separation agreement that you have elected not to sign. You will have the opportunity to raise any questions that you might have about your particular case or divorce law and Family Court procedure more generally. As a matter of general practice, a New York divorce lawyer typically does not charge a fee for an initial consultation.