Entering open-court oral stipulations of settlement to a divorce action is treacherous. It’s easy to miss something or be imprecise in language.
However, striking the deal while the iron is hot is a necessary part of matrimonial litigation. Letting the parties walk out of the courthouse without putting the day’s agreement “on the record” may cost the parties their deal. Emotions, particularly in divorce cases, often cause second (and hundredth) thoughts on settlement provisions. Giving friends and family one more opportunity for input may likely undermine the day’s efforts.
However, there are reasons that the typical written settlement stipulation consumes scores of pages. The boilerplate and legalese so offensive to the public is the necessary consequence of the thousands of decisions which interpret the words found in or missing from decades of previous settlements or otherwise requiring attention in any final agreement. Moreover, without reflecting on the written word, it’s easy just to miss things.
Take the recent Second Department decision in Zuchowski v. Zuchowski. The parties’ oral in-court stipulation announced that “all joint bank accounts have been split to the mutual satisfaction of the parties and here and forward each party shall keep any bank accounts in their respective names . . .”