The Final Word: No Written Agreement = No ID Divorce

November 12, 2013 § 5 Comments

We visited the COA case of Sanford v. Sanford here, back in May of 2012. Sanford is a case where the chancellor allowed the parties to dictate a settlement agreement into the record, accepted it as a final settlement of all issues, and granted an irreconcilable differences divorce.

The COA, in a case I described as a “Shortcut to Failure,” reversed, finding that, since there was no written agreement as required by the statute, the divorce had to be set aside.

But, lo, the MSSC granted cert in the case and took it into its bosom, where it has reposed since, piquing speculation that, perhaps, the Supremes were prepared to take a different tack. After all, if the high court intended to leave the COA decision undisturbed, why grant cert, right?

The speculation grows out of the outlier case of Bougard v. Bougard, 991 So.2d 646 (Miss.App. 2008), which did approve a chancellor’s grant of a divorce based on an announced settlement in open court, without a separate, written agreement. The case goes against a long line of holdings to the contrary, including the most recent, Reno v. Reno, which we posted about here.

So, the COA had reversed Sanford, holding that a written agreement is a sine qua non for an ID divorce. On cert, surely the MSSC pointed a new direction, didn’t they?

Well, in a word: no.

In Sanford v. Sanford, rendered October 31, 2013, penned by Justice Pierce, the high court affirmed the COA, saying that, “Because the requirements of neither [MCA] Section 93-5-2(2) nor Section 93-5-2(3) were completely met here, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, reverse the judgment of the Chancery Court of Lamar County, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

That would appear to put the final, end-stop punctuation to the procedure in which the assembled parties and lawyers try to announce a settlement on the record to obtain an irreconcilable differences divorce. No written agreement = no ID divorce. No written consent = no ID divorce. It’s that simple.

This would also seem to be the last gasp of Bougard.  

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