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Divorce Settlements Containing an Agreement to Later Agree Can be Unenforceable

Walker v. Walker, Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama

November 1, 2013

This Alabama Divorce action settled on the day it was set for trial before the DeKalb County Circuit Court. The settlement agreement reached between the parties was read for the record in open court by the husband's attorney. The husband and wife agreed on alimony, personal property, assumption of debt on the marital household, and other matters. The issue arose with the non-specific terms for the handling of certain tracts of land, and property the husband and wife owned on Sand Mountain, Alabama. The agreement stated that certain properties were to be ultimately conveyed to the couple's daughter, but that the two attorneys were to "work on the language to make that happen."

The husband and wife immediately disagreed on the timing and nature of the conveyance of the Sand Mountain land. The husband filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, which was granted by the trial court, which then triggered the wife's appeal to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Among the variety of arguments made by the parties, the Court of Civil Appeals focused on the undisputed facts before the trial court indicating that no meeting of the minds had occurred with regard to the tracts of land at issue. The settlement agreement reflected intent to work out the details later. The Court reasoned that "settlement agreements, like other agreements, are not valid when there has been no meeting of the minds with regard to the final terms of the agreement or when the parties have merely agreed to later agree." Grayson v. Hanson, 843 So.2d 464, 465 (Ala. 1997).

The Court reasoned that the lack of details relating to the timing and manner of conveyance of the Sand Mountain properties constituted unenforceable terms of an agreement to later agree. The wife testified that her understanding of the terms regarding the Sand Mountain Property were essential to her consent to all other terms of the Alabama divorce settlement agreement. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided the terms of the settlement agreement were not severable and remanded the entire settlement agreement back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Categories: Divorce
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