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What is a Rule 11 Agreement?
You may have noticed that sometimes lawyers tend to slip into legalese in court or when talking with clients or others. To be charitable, using legal terms may be an attempt to be precise, but it still tends to hamper communication with laypeople. A phrase that often comes up in family law cases, but which is often not explained, is "Rule 11 Agreement".
A Rule 11 Agreement is an agreement which is made in compliance with Rule 11 (no big surprise there) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11 says that an agreement between the attorneys or parties involved in a law suit can be made enforceable and binding in one of two ways:
(1) if it is in writing, the agreement must be signed by the attorneys or parties making the agreement and it must be filed with the papers of the Court; or
(2) if it is not in writing, the agreement must be made (stated) in open court (while court is in session) and made part of the official record of the case.
The Rule 11 Agreement must be clear and complete. Written agreements can be typed or hand-written. If oral, the record must show that all parties consented to the agreement.
Rule 11 Agreements are used for many different issues when agreements are made during the course of a case. For example, there might be agreements on the amount of child support, a visitation schedule, when documents will be exchanged, how bills will be paid, who gets to claim the tax exemptions, and so on. They can save time for everyone and the requirements of clarity and specificity help ensure that everyone knows and understands the agreement. Done properly, the agreements are binding and can prevent a party from trying to back out of an agreement. They are frequently used when the parties are negotiating at the courthouse and operate to preserve agreements made in the course of settlement talks.
Rule 11 Agreements are a common, ordinary device to help resolve legal issues outside of court. If you are involved in a family law case, you should not be surprised to see the terms of various agreements preserved as a Rule 11 Agreement.