Most court cases are settled. In a settlement, both parties agree to the outcome of the case and there is no trial before a judge or a jury. The settlement can be made with or without the help of the court. The agreement, also known as a Stipulation of Settlement, is written down and signed by both parties. An agreement can be reached before you come to court or when you are in court. The court can provide a form to write the settlement, or you can make your own. Stipulations of Settlement must be given to the judge for approval. Once the judge reviews the Stipulation of Settlement, they will so-order the agreement. That means that the judge will sign the stipulation and make it official. Always keep a copy of the so-ordered Settlement for your records.

Many people choose to settle instead of going to trial because a settlement is much faster and you can be sure of the outcome.


Be Careful

When you sign a Stipulation of Settlement you are making a binding legal agreement that must be followed. If one party does not follow the agreement, the other party can ask the court to enforce it. It is very important to read the agreement, understand it, and be sure that you can do what you have agreed to. Make sure that the agreement clearly addresses claims and counterclaims.

  • A claim is a legal form that the person who starts the case (plaintiff) completes. In this form, the plaintiff states the facts that, in their opinion, prove that the defendant owes them something. The plaintiff must also include the type of relief they are asking for (what they want the court to do)

  • A counterclaim is the defendant’s response to the claim, which also must be written in a legal form. A defendant may complete a counterclaim to assert facts that, in their opinion, show that the plaintiff owes them something. If a defendant decides to file a counterclaim, they must use this form to also indicate the type of relief they are asking for (what they want the court to do)

If you have an attorney, your attorney will be able to explain and answer any questions about the settlement agreement. If you do not have an attorney, you may ask the judge or the judge’s court attorney to explain anything that you do not understand.

You do not have to settle the case if you believe that what you are being asked to do in the agreement is unfair. You do not have to speak to the other side without the Judge unless you want to. It is your right to have a trial.


What to Do if the Settlement is Not Followed

Sometimes, one party does not do what was agreed to in the Settlement. If this happens, either party can ask the court for help by filling out an Order to Show Cause or motion papers asking for a court date to explain the problem to a judge. If your case has already been assigned to a judge, it is important to check with the judge’s Part Rules to learn which papers you need to file with the court. You may contact the court where your case is, to learn how to get a copy of the judge’s Part Rules.

If you have not followed the Settlement or know that you are unable to follow it, then you can ask the court for help changing the Settlement. For example, you may need more time to make a payment or you may need to change a date. This may not be easy because you signed the Settlement and promised to do something already. You will have to give the court a good reason why the Settlement should be changed and bring any proof that may get the judge to agree with you.

If the other party does not follow the Settlement, you can ask the court for help to make them do what they agreed to in the Settlement. Sometimes the Stipulation of Settlement says what happens if either side does not do what they agreed to. For example, the Stipulation of Settlement may say that one side can have a judgment if the other side does not comply. In this example, one party can use the Order to Show Cause to ask the judge to order the judgment. A judgment is a final decision made by the court that decides a dispute.

Read more about How to Ask the Court for Something in your case by making an Order to Show Cause or a Motion.

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