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ATTORNEYS AND PARTIES BEWARE: AGREEMENTS FOR DIVORCE ON IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES ARE SUBJECT TO COURT APPROVAL

It is fairly well known that an Agreement for divorce on Irreconcilable Differences is always subject to review by the Court for reasonableness, particularly in relation to children and child support. Thus, even though parties might agree to something, a court could disapprove of it and not allow the divorce to go through. This obligation by the Court creates an interesting dilemma in the seldom-used procedure of agreeing to some terms and submitting others to the Judge.

Parties can agree to some of the issues, such as custody and support, and then submit the other issues, such as property division and alimony, to the Judge. The procedure provides that once there are proceedings on the case, neither party may withdraw their agreement to divorce.

In the recent decision of Arrington v Arrington, NO. 2010–CA–00782–COA (Decided February 7, 2012), Andrew Arrington agreed to custody, visitation and to paying his wife $656 per month in support. The parties submitted the remaining issues, such as alimony, to the Court for decision. In it’s ruling, the Court found that Andrew had not agreed to pay enough in support, so it made up the difference in an award of rehabilitative alimony.

Andrew contended on appeal, that if the Court was going to conclude that he had not agreed to pay enough alimony, he should have been permitted to withdraw from the process. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court. Andrew argued that he got trapped into his agreement, and then the Judge added more to it. Attorneys and parties should be very careful when agreeing to partial terms and submitting the balance to the Court because the Court has the right and obligation to review the entire situation, which may result in a change in the Agreement of the parties.