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Uncontested Matters, Agreements and Settlements

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What is an agreement?

In a civil lawsuit, the document that spells out the terms of an out-of-court agreement that the parties reach. It can also be called a settlement.

Is an agreement the same as a settlement?

Yes. Both words are often used to mean the same thing – that the parties agree on one or more issues in the case.

What issues does the court want us to deal with in an agreement?

It depends on what kind of case you have.

To end a marriage by agreement, both spouses must AGREE about ALL of the following issues:

For unmarried parents, to deal with child custody by agreement, both parents must AGREE about:

Should we talk to a lawyer about our agreement?

Yes, it is a very good idea to get legal advice if possible. Both parties need to understand how agreeing to each issue affects the other issues in the agreement. If you agree to something without thinking it through, there can be serious and long standing consequences. Once a judge signs off on your agreement, it will be a binding court order that outlines each parties’ responsibilities and rights in the case.

If you can’t afford an attorney for full legal representation, consider unbundled legal services. You may be able to hire an attorney to review and explain your proposed agreement or draft up language for an agreement.

What papers can we file if we agree to end the marriage and we don’t have children?

What papers can we file if we agree to the end the marriage and we have children?

There are 2 possible sets of papers you can file depending on whether there are any paternity issues in your case.

No paternity issue

If you are currently married and AGREE about ALL of the details of the following issues:

you can file Dissolution Packet #1, DR-1 (For married people with minor children):

NOTE: Both parties must sign every page of the Dissolution Packet. If this is not possible in your situation, you can still get divorced by using the Divorce Complaint Packet, SHC-PAC1A.

Paternity issue

If there is a paternity issue (the correct father is NOT on the birth certificate, the court has NOT already established the paternity of the correct father ,or you are pregnant and your husband is NOT the father), you CANNOT use the Dissolution Packet #1, DR-1. Instead, you can use:

What do we file if we are not married and agree about custody?

What do we file if we agree about modifying a final order?

Even if both parents agree on the change, you still need to file something in court. Both parents can file together:

Read the Modification section to learn more.

What if we reach agreement after the case has been going on for a while?

You can reach an agreement any time during the case, even if you started out disagreeing with each other.

It is a good idea to get legal advice by talking to an attorney about an agreement. Both parties need to understand how agreeing to each issue affects the other issues in the agreement. If you agree to something without thinking it through, there can be serious and long standing consequences. Once a judge signs off on your agreement, it will be a binding court order that outlines each parties’ responsibilities and rights regarding the issues in the case.

If you can’t afford an attorney for full representation, consider unbundled legal services. You may be able to hire an attorney to review and explain your proposed agreement or draft up language for an agreement.

Once you are comfortable with the agreement, both parties need to put it in writing and file it in court. You will also need to ask for a hearing to put the settlement on record. You can use the following forms:

Note: these forms are for divorce or custody cases. If you have a dissolution case, do not file these forms.

What if we agree on some issues, but not others?

Both parties can write up an agreement on the issues that you agree about. However, figuring out when to file the agreement in court is an important decision to make. Some people file it when they reach agreement and others may choose to wait until their trial or final hearing on the issue. If possible, speak to an attorney about the agreement and its timing. Both parties need to understand how agreeing to each issue affects the other issues in the case. If you agree to something without thinking it through, there can be serious and long standing consequences. Once a judge signs off on your agreement, it will be a binding court order that outlines each parties’ responsibilities and rights in the case.

If you can’t afford an attorney for full representation, consider unbundled legal services. You may be able to hire an attorney to review and explain your proposed partial agreement or draft up language for a partial agreement or advise when to file it in court.

If you decide to file the partial agreement before your final trial or hearing, you can use the following forms:

These forms can be used for partial agreements in divorce or custody cases but not dissolution cases. In dissolution cases, both spouses must agree on ALL issues in the case. If you do not agree on all issues in a dissolution case, you can ask to convert the dissolution to a divorce by filing:

What if we are close to agreeing but need some help?

There are 3 options to get some help:

How can mediation help reach an agreement?

Mediation is an informal, voluntary and confidential way to resolve disagreements without giving the decision-making power to someone else, like a judge. A neutral person, called the mediator, helps people outside the court process to:

For child custody issues in Anchorage, Palmer, Fairbanks, Kenai, Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka, the court offers mediation for parents whose combined net incomes are less than $100,000. The mediator helps parents resolve disputes about access and visitation concerns and create workable co-parenting plans. This service is free unless parents wish to mediate additional issues or require more time than allowed by program. If you want to go to mediation for a child custody issue, you can file a motion asking the court to order it:

Parties can always hire their own private mediators to help resolve any issue in the case. See mediation resources. Read more about mediation.

How can a settlement conference help reach an agreement?

A settlement conference is a meeting with a judge before trial to explore ways to settle your issues. The meeting includes you, the other party, your lawyers (if you have them) and a judge. The judge may or may not be the same judge you will have if you go to trial. The judge's role is to try help you to reach an agreement, not to be a decision-maker. Each side makes offers about what he/she wants and the judge comments on whether it is fair and reasonable. The judge has no official power to make the parties settle at this stage, but usually strongly encourages settlement by critiquing the parties' trial positions. The judge also indicates how a judge would likely rule on disputed issues during the trial. If both parties want a judge to help settle the issues, file a motion asking for a settlement conference:

How can unbundled legal services help?

It is always a good idea to talk through a proposed agreement with an attorney. You need to understand how agreeing to each issue affects the other issues in the agreement. If you agree to something without thinking it through, there can be serious and long standing consequences. Once a judge signs off on your agreement, it will be a binding court order that outlines each parties’ responsibilities and rights in the case.

If you can’t afford an attorney for full representation, consider unbundled legal services. You may be able to hire an attorney to review and explain your proposed agreement or draft up language for an agreement. Some attorneys are willing to provide limited legal services to clients.

Will the case go faster if we agree?

Yes. Usually, things move faster because the parties spend less time fighting about things in court so there is less need for motions and oppositions, hearings and a trial to decide all the contested issues.

How long will it take if we agree?

It depends on the facts of each case. It is possible that a case can be over in as little time as a month or two if the parties agree about everything and they file all the right papers.

Do we still have to go to court if we agree?

Yes. You usually will need to go in front a judge for a short hearing so both parties can put the agreement on the record. At this hearing, you will tell the judge what both parties agree about. The judge wants to make sure both parties agree voluntarily, and the agreement is reasonable and meets the legal standards for the issues.

After you have reached an agreement, you need to ask the court to put the settlement on record by filing:

Do we need to file any final papers for the hearing to put the settlement on record?

Depending on your case type, fill out the final papers showing what both parties agree about. Do NOT sign the papers because you want the judge to sign them which will end the case.

File the final documents for your case type:

What happens at the hearing to put the settlement on the record?

The judge wants to make sure both parties agree to everything in the paperwork. The judge will go over the agreement and ask if it is voluntary and that both parties understand what the agreement says. The judge may ask questions and may make a decision right at the hearing about whether to sign the agreement into an order.

Will the judge sign our agreement?

It depends on the facts of each case. But the judge will usually sign the agreement if:

Is an agreement final?

Yes. Once the judge signs the agreement into an order, it is a final binding document that outlines the parties’ rights and responsibilities on the issues it addresses.

How do I change an agreement?

If the judge has not yet signed the agreement into an order, you can file a:

If the judge has signed the agreement into an order, depending on the situation and how much time has passed since the judge signed the order, you may be able to file a:

Contact the Family Law Self-Help Center for help with how to ask the court to change an agreement.


Rev. 3 March 2014
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