A stipulation is a statement of agreement or admission of factual information. In a family law proceeding, stipulations are entered into the record to assist the court in establishing facts “not in dispute.” For example, in a divorce proceeding, the parties may stipulate that they were married from the years 1999-2006.
Stipulations are commonly used 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 proceedings regarding divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, and paternity. Stipulations can help family law proceedings run more efficiently.
How Do Stipulations Affect Family Law Proceedings?
Stipulations are very important for the outcome of any family law proceeding. Whatever facts a party admits or agrees to in a stipulation will be binding on them. (However, stipulations are only binding between the parties that made the agreement, not on third parties). The information gathered from the parties’ stipulations can be used later on during trial as evidence.
What Can Be Addressed in a Stipulation?
Stipulations in a family law proceeding should only cover factual information. Arguments of law or legal theories are usually not the subject of stipulations. Most family law stipulations involve the parties agreeing on specific procedural matters. For example, the parties may stipulate (“agree”) to extend a filing deadline, or to provide for the exchange of documents.
One common subject of stipulations in a family law context is how the case will be adjudicated. The parties may stipulate to have the case status classified as:
- “Conventional”: neither party is represented by lawyers
- “Managed”: one or both parties are represented by lawyers
- “Diverted”: directed towards Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods such as family mediation or collaborative family law
Stipulations in a family law proceeding must be in writing, unless the stipulation is made on the record during court sessions.
What If the Parties Can’t Reach a Stipulated Agreement?
Sometimes the status of the case is assigned to the parties by a court official. In such cases, the parties are encouraged to reach an agreement and form a stipulation in acceptance of the case status. In the event that the parties can’t reach a final agreement, they must file a “non-stipulation.”
A non-stipulation is a formal declaration that the parties are unable to agree upon facts or procedural matters. If the parties file a non-stipulation, it may result in the waiver of certain rights, like the right to contest to a case assignment.
Do I Need a Family Lawyer?
In a family law proceeding, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which facts will be relevant in supporting your claims. You may wish to contact a family lawyer for assistance with stipulations and other important agreements. Your attorney can advise you on which statements to include in a stipulation. This will help avoid disputes or confusion later on as the trial proceeds.