No Divorce on Withdrawn Rule 11 Agreements

Rule 11 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure* allows attorneys and parties to make agreements provided that they are in writing, signed and filed with the court or made in open court and entered of record. Rule 11 agreements commonly do resolve divorce cases and provide for judgment. But consent to Rule 11 agreements can be withdrawn, and if consent is withdrawn prior to judgment, any judgment based on a Rule 11 agreement is void.

Divorce After Rule 11 Agreements

In In re Marriage of Dixon, No. 12-13-00324-CV (Tex. App. – Tyler Feb. 28, 2014) (mem. op.), the trial court ran afoul of this rule. A court in Texas may not grant a divorce prior to the expiration of sixty days after the divorce suit has been filed. In Dixon, the parties entered into a Rule 11 agreement that resolved their marriage before the sixty days had run. The court held a hearing at which it approved the Rule 11 agreement and stated that a divorce would be granted, based on the agreement, after the sixty days had passed.

No Divorce if Consent Withdrawn

Not long before the sixty-day period expired, the husband filed a pleading in which he withdrew his consent to the Rule 11 agreement. After the sixty days had passed, the trial court nevertheless signed the parties’ divorce decree, based on the Rule 11 agreement. The court observed, “if courts start not honoring Rule 11 agreements, we will have chaos.”

On appeal, the Tyler Court of Appeals stated that

it is not sufficient that a party’s consent to a Rule 11 agreement may have been given at one time. . . . Consent must exist at the time the judgment is rendered. . . . A party may revoke his consent to a Rule 11 agreement at any time before judgment is rendered. . . . An agreed judgment rendered after one of the parties revokes his consent is void.

(citing S & A Rest. Corp. v. Leal, 892 S.W.2d 855 (Tex. 1995) (per curiam); and ExxonMobil Corp. v. Valence Operating Co., 174 S.W.3d 303 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, pet. denied)).

The court reversed the case and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Agreements To Be in Writing

* Rule 11 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.

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