A Brief Primer on Rule 11 Agreements in the Context of Texas Family Law
"Rule 11 agreements" in Texas law refer to agreements that are made in writing and signed by the parties or their attorneys. They are typically used in family law cases to settle disputes without going to trial; because of this, they can be referred to as "informal agreements."
Rule 11 agreements are governed by Rule 11 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
In the context of family law, Rule 11 agreements can be used to resolve a variety of issues, including:
Divorce settlements: Rule 11 agreements can be used to settle issues related to property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support in a divorce case.
Child custody and visitation: Rule 11 agreements can be used to settle disputes related to child custody and visitation. For example, the parties can agree on a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
Child support: Rule 11 agreements can be used to establish or modify child support obligations.
Property division: Rule 11 agreements can be used to divide property between the parties in a fair and equitable manner.
To be enforceable, Rule 11 agreements must meet certain requirements. Specifically, they must be:
Signed by the parties or their attorneys;
Expressly state that it is a Rule 11 agreement;
State the terms of the agreement with specificity; and
State that the parties have read the agreement, understand its terms, and voluntarily agree to them
Once a Rule 11 agreement is signed by the parties or their attorneys, it is binding and enforceable. If either party fails to comply with the terms of the agreement, the other party can seek enforcement through the court.
It's important to note that Rule 11 agreements should be carefully drafted and reviewed by an experienced family law attorney to ensure that they fully address all of the issues and protect the client's interests.
It is also important to note that even though Rule 11 agreements related to child custody are generally binding on the parties, they are still subject to review by the court to ensure that they are in the best interests of the child.
Under Texas law, the best interests of the child are the primary consideration in any child custody determination. When parties enter into a Rule 11 agreement related to child custody, the court will still review the agreement to ensure that it is in the best interests of the child.
If the court determines that the Rule 11 agreement is not in the best interests of the child, it may refuse to approve the agreement or modify it as necessary to ensure that the child's best interests are served.
That said, once the court approves a Rule 11 agreement related to child custody, it is generally binding on the parties and can only be modified by further court order. The court will generally only modify a custody agreement if there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances that affects the child's welfare.
So, while Rule 11 agreements related to child custody are subject to court review, they can still be an effective way for parties to settle custody disputes without going to trial, as long as the agreement is in the best interests of the child.
A template Rule 11 Agreement in the Texas Family Law context is provided below: