Hart v. HartAnnotate this Case
In 2013, appellant Victoria Hart ("wife"), filed a complaint seeking a divorce from her husband, Lee Hart ("husband"). The parties' pre-trial efforts to settle, including mediation, were unsuccessful and they proceeded to trial. They continued to negotiate, both with and without the aid of counsel, until the morning of trial but began selecting a jury after they were unable to resolve their differences. Following a mid-day recess, the parties informed the trial court that they had reached an agreement. The trial court stated its understanding that the parties had reached an agreement, directed counsel to put the parties' agreement on the record, and instructed counsel and the parties to listen carefully and ask questions if they had any. Wife's counsel then announced the parties' settlement agreement on the record. Although the announced settlement made no mention of husband's unvested civil service retirement, counsel for both parties affirmed at the conclusion of the hearing that the terms announced on the record covered "everything." The final draft was presented to the parties for their signatures, but wife refused to sign and subsequently retained new counsel. After a hearing, the trial court granted husband's motion to enforce the parties' settlement agreement and entered a final decree incorporating the last revision of the draft agreement. In doing so, the trial court rejected wife's argument that the unsigned draft did not accurately reflect the agreement between the parties because she never consented to waive her right to assert a claim against husband's civil service retirement. Wife subsequently appealed, alleging that the trial court improperly added a substantive term to the parties' settlement when it included the challenged waiver language in the final decree. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment.