Stipulations signed by a party but not by the attorney, may be enforced and binding.

April 18, 2019

Cox v. Hefley, 2019 UT App 60 (Filed April 18, 2019).

In this case, a Mother had brought a petition to modify a previous divorce orders. Both parties signed a stipulation that modified the previous orders relating to the Mother's parent time and certain conditions the Mother would have to be in compliance with to have unsupervised visitation. The stipulation stated that it "resolved all pending issues" and that "both parties..stipulate to be fully bound by the following terms and conditions..." The Mother signed the agreement, but her attorney did not. Later the Mother attempted to set aside the stipulation on several grounds, but for purposes of this post, she claimed it should be set aside because her attorney of record did not. The court found:

"¶20 To start, we reject [the Mother's] claim that the Stipulated Decree “should have been stricken” because it “was never signed by an attorney of record.” The Stipulated Decree is simply an agreement to settle the parties’ dispute. See Klein v. Klein, 544 P.2d 472, 476 (Utah 1975) (explaining that when parties enter “a stipulation pertaining to matters of divorce [and] custody,” “the same rules apply to binding [them] to such an agreement as apply to any other agreement”). District courts have “the power to enter a judgment enforcing a settlement agreement if it is an enforceable contract.” Goodmansen v. Liberty Vending Sys., Inc., 866 P.2d 581, 584 (Utah Ct. App. 1993).

"¶21 [The Mother] does not dispute that she understood and voluntarily agreed to the Stipulated Decree. See Klein, 544 P.2d at 476 (affirming a district court’s decision to enter the parties’ stipulation when the district court “was not convinced that the plaintiff did not understand and voluntarily agree to the stipulation”). Contrary to her assertions, litigants may enter a stipulation or settlement agreement without first obtaining the consent of—or even consulting—their attorneys. See John Deere Co. v. A & H Equip., Inc., 876 P.2d 880, 887 (Utah Ct. App. 1994) (determining that a settlement agreement “was enforceable despite the fact that it had not been reduced to writing [or] signed by the parties,” “nor did the attorneys of record sign and submit to the court a written stipulation”). Thus, we reject [the Mother's] claim that the district court should have rejected the Stipulated Decree because it was not signed by the parties’ attorneys."

Cox v. Hefley, 2019 UT App 60 (Filed April 18, 2019).

To read the entire case, click HERE.

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