Importance of Domestic Agreements being in writing

In a recent ruling, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the importance of having agreements reduced to writing and, furthermore, having them fully executed by all necessary parties and, in this case, the judge. In Edwards vs. Cole, the plaintiff sought the protection of a domestic violence restraining order and negotiated a settlement with the defendant that was reduced to writing and signed by the parties.  However, even though the judge orally indicated that the agreement seemed reasonable and would sign it, the trial judge never did sign the DVPO before the defendant withdrew his consent, making their agreement unenforceable.

This concept also rings true in other aspects of family law. Many times, a spouse will orally indicate his or her willingness to, for example, pay support to his or her spouse voluntarily.  However, until that agreement is reduced to writing and notarized, it is likely not legally enforceable and the spouse that is depending on that support runs the risk of losing valuable rights if the issue is not addressed in a timely fashion.  The same can be said for oral agreements to transfer ownership of real estate, and/or oral agreements to transfer possession of all or parts of financial accounts.

The attorneys at Gay, Jackson and McNally, L.L.P. have extensive experience in representing spouses going through the often times frightening process of separation and divorce. Having an attorney assist you in negotiations and, if necessary, litigation can and often does lead to a more favorable outcome.  If you, a family member or friend need advice and assistance in navigating that process, call us at (919) 269-2234 or email me at