• Send us a message

    Fill in our form and we'll get back to you as soon as possible

    Please enter name
    Please enter your telephone number
    Please enter your email address
    Please let us know which of offices would most convenient for you?
    Please enter the details of your enquiry
    Please enter the verification code
    Send us a message
  • Services for you
  • Services for business

Just Because You Agree Doesn't Mean the Court Will

It is common in legal disputes for the two sides to agree to suspend the court proceedings for a period so that they can get as much agreed between them as possible, and gather their evidence and prepare their arguments over what remains in dispute without the pressure of an impending hearing date. Such an agreement is called a 'standstill agreement', and if proceedings are served in time it is usual for the court to agree to the requested hiatus.

In a recent family law case, one of the UK's leading family judges made clear his opinion as to what is and what is not acceptable with regard to such agreements. It involved a woman who had applied to change her entitlement under her husband's will by bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Although the claim was out of time, her lawyers had made a standstill agreement with the trustees of trusts she was claiming against in order to try to settle the matter, as they believed it was likely that the claim would be allowed to proceed. The application came before Justice Mostyn, who said, "If it is indeed common practice [to use a standstill agreement in such circumstances], then I suggest that it is a practice that should come to an immediate end. It is not for the parties to give away time that belongs to the court. If the parties want to agree a moratorium for the purposes of negotiations, then the claim should be issued in time and then the court invited to stay the proceedings while the negotiations are pursued. Otherwise it is, as I remarked in argument, simply to cock a snook at the clear Parliamentary intention."

The application was refused. It is thought that the decision may be appealed.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.