Is an Oral Mediation Agreement Enforceable in New Jersey?
Understanding Oral Mediation Agreements in New Jersey
If you or a former spouse used Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which refers to processes for settling disputes outside the courtroom, and one or both of you are seeking to enforce or break an oral agreement created through ADR, you will need to read more here.
You will also need the experience, knowledge, and resources that the attorneys at The Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper can bring to bear on this issue to have the best possible outcome.
ADR can involve one or more of these processes: early neutral evaluation, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration.
ADR is a process that has been effective for resolving a wide range of family law problems. It has the added benefit of helping clients avoid the attorney’s fees and painful emotions that arguing a case before a judge can cause.
However, after an investment of time and effort in ADR, it’s not unusual that one party changes their minds. For example, if the agreement was oral and not written down, they might want to edge away from it thinking that, if it’s not in writing and signed, a person has no obligation.
But that simply is not true.
How Stable are Oral Settlement Agreements in New Jersey?
Courts in this state tend to rule with the stability of settlement agreements in mind, and they assume that they are fully legal instruments. In one settled bit of case law, Nolan v. Lee Ho, 120 N.J. 465, the court said that “settlement agreement between parties to a lawsuit is a contract.”
Filing a Harrington Motion after an Oral Mediation Agreement in NJ
If your former spouse tries to go back on an oral agreement established through mediation, you should talk with Edward Cooper about making a “Harrington motion.” This legal device is born out of the Harrington v. Harrington, 281 N.J. Super. 39 court ruling. In this case, a court ruled in an appeal case that verbal agreements could be legal and irrevocable if the two parties set the terms. Further, the court ruled that if an agreement had been reached and the fundamental details were definite, the people who agreed would be bound by it even if it was not written down.
Therefore, unless the court sees the oral agreement as being burdensome or unfair, it is indeed a contract that must be carried out.
Get Your Agreements in Writing
We advocate that you make an effort to get an oral agreement down on paper. This is your best safeguard, even if both sides in the case have agreed to all the salient issues. You may even be in circumstances where it would be important to put the salient issues into the court record while still in front of the judge. This step can avert a fiasco later.
Bear in mind is that the party attempting to back out of the agreement may be held responsible for their opponent’s legal fees.
What is most important to you is hiring an expert attorney who can work out an equitable settlement that’s favorable to you and who can also file, litigate, and win a Harrington motion if needed.
Contact Our Attorneys for Help Making and Enforcing Your Mediation Agreement
At The Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper, our attorneys have comprehensive expertise and experience assisting clients in Union Township, Edison, Rahway, Clark, Union County and Middlesex County.
Our firm specializes in contributing legal advice with an eye toward your life and your future while at the same time supporting the financial gains that you have worked to create. We will represent you in a way that defends you and does not put stress on the security of your children.
Edward Cooper provides spouses the opportunity to understand their responsibilities under settlement agreements and settle their disagreements with less animosity. We can help you with your divorce agreement to be protected in the future and achieve fair resolutions, as well as any post-divorce legal matters that may arise as things evolve over time. We always bear in mind the fact that you and your family have unique needs.
Schedule a confidential meeting with our firm today to discuss your divorce and any oral agreements already reached. Contact us online or at our Linden, NJ office at (908) 481-4625 today for a confidential consultation to discuss your individual needs and concerns.