The Rule 69 agreement often comes up during divorce and child custody cases in Arizona. It refers to a partial or complete settlement between two parties in a family law case. Once the two sides have entered into the agreement, it is valid and binding in the eyes of the court.
The settlement is valid and binding if one of the following happens:
- The agreement is in writing.
- The agreement is read on record in front of a judge, commissioner, court reporter, or anyone authorized by the court.
- The agreement is stated in an audio recording in front of a mediator or settlement conference officer appointed by the court.
A previous appellate case ruled that writings back and forth between sides could be put together by the court to create a Rule 69 agreement. Therefore, it is in both parties’ best interest to consult with a lawyer before putting anything into writing.
Agreements created outside of the scenarios listed above will result in an invalid agreement. Scenarios in which the agreement is invalid include:
- The agreement is stated in front of a mediator not appointed by the court.
- An attorney binds the agreement without his or her client’s consent. If the attorney has the consent, however, he or she can bind the agreement.
Can the Rule 69 Agreement be Broken?
It is not easy to invalidate or break a binding agreement. The party wishing to cancel the agreement has the burden of proving it should not be enforced. The most likely scenarios wherein the agreement could be invalidated include:
- It is not in the best interest of the children involved.
- It was not signed by one or both of the parties, and one party claims they did not agree to it.
- It was signed under duress or coercion.
- It is not fair or inequitable.
If the court upholds the agreement and finds it valid, the party wishing to invalidate it may have to pay for the other party’s legal fees.
Settling Matters Outside of the Agreement
Sometimes, two parties only have a partial settlement through their Rule 69 agreement. This situation is often true in divorce scenarios in which both sides may come to an agreement on everything but child custody or visitation.
In these situations, the two parties can go to mediation or settle in a hearing. Mediation often is required before the court will grant a hearing. The hearing will only include issues not resolved through the Rule 69 agreement.
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