Rule 11 Agreements and Final Decrees of Divorce

The Agreed Decree of Divorce is a final decree that contains the terms to which both parties have given their consent. The Decree is both a "judgment" of the court, and a contract between the parties. Some terms can be enforced by contempt, some terms can be enforced as a breach of contract. Parties can give their consent by simply signing the final decree, in which case one party will "prove up" the decree before the judge who may approve the agreements and enter the order. Or the Decree can be based upon some form of a settlement agreement, which has been incorporated into the Decree.

If the decree is based upon a settlement agreement, it is important to understand the different variations of "agreements." Generally, once an agreement is reached regarding the terms of the decree, one party will want to enforce that agreement in the event the other party changes their mind. Understanding the nature of the underlying agreement is important to understand the "finality" of that agreement.

 The Rule 11 Agreement

 The Rule 11 Agreement is an agreement that conforms with the requirements of Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (TRCP) Rule 11, which states:

Unless otherwise provided in these rules, no agreement between attorneys or parties touching any suit pending will be enforced unless it be in writing, signed and filed with the papers as part of the record, or unless it be made in open court and entered of record.

Rule 11 Agreements are used to settle all types of issues between the parties, from discovery matters to final property divisions. They are contractual in nature, and can be enforced as a contract – provided they satisfy the requirements of Rule 11. When incorporating the terms of a Rule 11 Agreement into a final decree of divorce, specify that the parties intend for the decree to supersede the terms of the Rule 11 agreement. That way, if there is a conflict between the two documents, it is clear that the provisions of the decree trump the Rule 11 agreement. Otherwise, the settlement agreement remains enforceable as a contract even if its terms are not incorporated into the judgment. Compania Financiara Libano, S.A. v. Simmons, 53 S.W.3d 365 (Tex. 2001). The terms of the Rule 11 Agreement also remain enforceable as a contract, even if a party withdraws his or her consent. Boyd v. Boyd, 67 SW3d 398 (Tex. App. - Fort Worth 2002, no pet).