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Motions to Enforce Settlement Agreements

Courts encourage settlement. To this end, many courts strongly encourage mediation and arbitration, particularly for family law related matters or other sensitive subjective matter. As a practical matter, moreover, there is much to be said for mutually coming to an agreement with another party to resolve a dispute, rather than putting it in the hands of a Judge/Jury to decide your fate. Trial is an inherently risky proposition and avoidance of it can be a wise choice depending on a given case.

For these reasons, Courts will do what they can to make sure a settlement is reached. Indeed, Missouri courts have long held that if a case is pending when a settlement is reached, and if problems subsequently persist about the settlement, then the matter may be raised by filing a motion to enforce settlement in the pending action. In more extreme cases, a counterclaim or affirmative defense may be filed. Such a request, whether it be contained in a motion or in pleadings, adds to the underlying case a collateral action seeking specific performance of the settlement. See Ingram v. Rineheart, 108 S.W.3d 783, 789 (Mo. Ct. App. 2003).

The issue of whether a settlement is forced is one for the judge. It is not a jury question. The central question that the judge will decide is whether it is clear from the testimony and or written evidence that an agreement was reached between the parties. Given judges inclination to grant these motions and encourage settlement, it is not a difficult sell if the evidence is clear.

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