Is a Verbal Agreement Binding in a Divorce Decree in Colorado?

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Written agreements are the easiest to enforce.

Written agreements are the easiest to enforce.

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An agreement can make the divorce process move along quicker and cheaper since you won’t spend time and money arguing in court. Colorado permits spouses to agree on all the key terms of a divorce -- property division, child custody, alimony and other issues – and incorporate their agreement into the final divorce decree. However, the terms must be in writing to become part of the divorce decree.

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Marital Settlement Agreements

A marital settlement agreement is a document that describes the terms of your divorce in detail, determining how you and your spouse will separate your lives. For example, your agreement could include a specific list of items each of you will keep once the divorce is final, along with a list of the marital debts you’ll each assume. You and your spouse can reach agreement on your own, through an attorney or with the help of a mediator, but once you agree to terms, each of you will sign the agreement and present it to the court for approval.

Court Approval

Typically, courts prefer when spouses reach their own agreement about divorce terms because the court can adopt the terms as part of the final divorce decree instead of having to decide these issues in a court hearing. Your Colorado divorce court can approve the terms of your marital settlement agreement as long as the terms are not unconscionable -- that is, grossly unfair to one party. It must also be properly drafted and cover all aspects of your divorce.

Verbal Agreements

Your spouse may make lots of promises before you divorce, but unless those promises are in writing, they probably won’t be enforceable. A court has no way of enforcing verbal divorce agreements because there is no way to file such agreements with the court in the same way you can file your written marital settlement agreement. If the agreement is not filed with the court, there is no record of it and it does not have the same weight as a court order.

Enforcement

Once the agreement is adopted by the court as part of your divorce decree, it has the same weight as any other court order, so it can be enforced by the court. If your ex-spouse does not follow the terms of your agreement, now part of your divorce decree, you can ask the court to find him in contempt for the violation. The court can order him to comply, fine him or even put him in jail.

Modification

Even after your agreement is in writing and signed, parts of it can be modified. For example, a court can modify spousal support or child support if you or your ex-spouse experience a significant change in circumstances. To modify your settlement agreement after it becomes part of your divorce decree, you must file a petition with the court asking for a modification. Once you serve your spouse with a copy of your modification petition, he can respond to your request and the court will likely hold a hearing to receive evidence concerning your requested modification.