Mediation Agreement is Binding on Parties & Court
Husband and Wife settled their divorce case at mediation, and signed a binding Mediated Settlement Agreement. They then presented a Decree of Divorce to the trial court, which was signed by the judge. Wife then filed a motion to clarify the Mediated Settlement Agreement because the Decree did not include 65 items of personal property she claimed were her separate property. Husband argued the agreement did not award those items to Wife as her separate property.
A Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding on the parties and the court. Here, the spouses did not agree on what their agreement said. To resolve the spouses’ dispute about whether their agreement awarded Wife’s personal property to her, the appellate court interpreted the terms of the Mediated Settlement Agreement.
The Mediated Settlement Agreement provided that each party shall retain the personal property in their possession except as set forth on an exhibit. It also provided that Husband retains the home and its contents except for the items listed in the exhibit. The exhibit was a 9-page listing of personal property items. That exhibit had a section with the heading “SEPARATE PROPERTY” listing 65 items of personal property, each describing why it was separate property. Several of those items clearly showed they were Wife’s separate property, such as Wife’s “clothing” and “cologne, lotion and trays.” The trial judge awarded all 65 items to Wife in an Order clarifying the Mediated Settlement Agreement.
Husband appealed the Order awarding all 65 items to Wife. The appellate court interpreted the exhibit’s “SEPARATE PROPERTY” section together with all other provisions of the Mediated Settlement Agreement, and concluded that the intention of the Mediated Settlement Agreement was that those items were Wife’s separate property, not items in the home that Husband retained.
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