In general, a stipulation is a statement of agreement or an admission of factual information. In a family law proceeding, stipulations are entered into the case record to assist the court in establishing the facts that are “not in dispute.”
For example, in a divorce proceeding, the parties may stipulate that they were married from the year 1999 through to 2006. This simply means that the parties agree on the years they were married, and that this information is not considered a fact that is in dispute. In other words, they are not in court to argue over which years they were married, and the court does not need to address it.
Stipulations are commonly found in situations where the opposing parties need to cooperate in order to reach an agreement on a particular set of facts. They are often used in the following types of proceedings:
Stipulations can help family law actions to progress more efficiently.
Stipulations for a family law claim should only include factual information. Arguments of law and legal theories are typically not addressed in a stipulation.
Most family law stipulations involve the parties agreeing to specific procedural matters. For instance, the parties may stipulate (agree) to extend a filing deadline, or to provide for the exchange of documents.
A common theme that arises in stipulations for family law claims, is how the case will be adjudicated, which is based on particular case status classifications. Adjudicate just means to judge or make a decision about a problem.
In this situation, the parties may stipulate to have their case status classified as one of the following:
- Conventional: This means neither party is represented by lawyers.
- Managed: One or both parties are represented by lawyers.
- Diverted: The case was recommended for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods, such as:
Finally, it is important to note that all stipulations for family law proceedings must be in writing, with one exception: if the stipulation is made on the record during a court session.
Stipulations can have a major impact on the outcome of family law proceedings. Any facts that the parties have admitted or agreed to in their stipulations, will be binding not just throughout the case, but also will extend beyond its conclusion. Stipulations are only binding between the parties that made the agreement, not on any third parties.
The information gathered from stipulations can be used during trial as evidence. It also can be used as a reason to grant or deny a party’s request to modify a court order. For example:
In a child custody case, the court may order that it is in the best interest of the child to live with a particular parent. The facts stipulated to by the parties in that case may have provided partial reasons for the judge’s decision.
If circumstances change, however, such as the custodial parent becomes incapable of taking care of the child, the original stipulation will need to be modified to reflect the current state of facts.
This means the parties will have to agree upon the new facts to create an updated stipulation that addresses the change in circumstances and allows for modification of the child custody order.
Thus, for all of the reasons just stated, it is important to address stipulations properly because they can affect the results of a family law case, as well as any future modifications that need to be made to a case. Consulting a family law attorney can help to reduce these risks associated with filing a stipulation.
Occasionally, the status of a case is assigned to the parties by a court official. In such cases, the parties are encouraged to form a stipulation that reaches an agreement to accept the status of the case. If the parties are not able to reach a final agreement concerning the case status, then they must file a “non-stipulation.”
A “non-stipulation” is a formal declaration that basically says the parties were unable to reach an agreement regarding specific facts, or some other procedural matter. If the parties elect to file a non-stipulation, then it could result in the waiver of certain rights, like the right to contest a case assignment.
Family law proceedings can present complex issues. Often, it may be difficult to decide which facts are relevant to support your claim. By contacting a family lawyer for assistance, they will be able to help guide you through the information required to complete a stipulation, as well as other affiliated legal documents or agreements.
Your family law attorney can also advise you on which statements to include in a stipulation. This will help you to avoid causing lengthy disputes or adding greater confusion to a case, as the trial proceeds.