The legal process can be notoriously long and exhausting. Family law is no exception to this. Family law cases can last for months or even longer, depending on the complexity of the issues and the attitude of the parties. Fortunately in the majority of cases, parties will reach a settlement of some or even all of the issues. Parties to a divorce or custody case can reach a settlement just by talking to each other, by negotiating through their respective attorneys, or by attending mediation. Regardless of how the parties arrive at a settlement, they will need to execute a Mediated Settlement Agreement, or “MSA,” that sets out the details of the agreement. When entering into an MSA, parties need to understand that an MSA must contain certain requirements to be valid and enforceable.
Minnesota statute 572.33 defines a “mediated settlement agreement.” The first element it sets out is that the agreement must be in writing. This means that an oral agreement between the parties is not enforceable as an MSA. The statute also provides that the agreement must be signed by both of the parties. In other words, even if you and your spouse work to reach a settlement on your divorce, unless the agreement is reduced to writing and both of you sign it, it will not be enforceable; accordingly, your spouse is free to change his or her mind about a settlement at any time before he or she has signed the agreement. The MSA must also be dated when the parties sign.
It is important to note that the statute does not require that the parties reach an agreement on all issues or even particular issues. The parties are free to enter into an MSA on only one issue, if they so choose. The courts and legislature want to encourage parties to settle as many issues as possible before going to the final hearing to help reduce the amount of time a final hearing will take.
Parties also need to understand that an MSA is a contract, not a court order. After the parties sign the MSA, it will need to be adopted by the court and incorporated into the final order.
We have extensive experience helping our clients with all types of family law settlements. Call us today at (651) 371-9117 to talk about your case.