The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Family Court today in O’Donnell v. O’Donnell (No. 2012-52-Appeal), ruling that a stenographic record of an oral agreement reached in open court is sufficient to form a non-modifiable marital settlement agreement.
The plaintiff husband in this case made the argument that because the agreement was neither drafted nor signed by the parties, it is nothing more than stenographic notes and not a binding agreement. The Court found no merit in this argument in an opinion written by Justice Goldberg:
…the Family Court justice found that the parties intended and agreed that plaintiff was to provide health insurance coverage to defendant, with only limited exceptions concerning employer – provided health insurance. The Family Court justice reached this conclusion after reviewing the transcript from the November 12, 2002 hearing, where plaintiff’s counsel — without objection — read this provision into the re cord. The Family Court justice noted that , after plaintiff’s attorney submitted that transcript as a joint exhibit at the December 6, 2002 hearing, both plaintiff and defendant testified under oath and confirmed their assent to its terms. At no time did either party object or voice any disagreement with the health insurance coverage provisions. Accordingly, the parties are bound by the agreement which they affirmed in open court.
You can read the entire opinion here.