Rule 11 Agreements
This article explains Texas’ Rule 11 Agreements.
A valid Rule 11 agreement must be in writing; signed by the parties and lawyers (if any); and filed with the court. Or, during a live hearing or proceeding, you can read your agreement into the court’s record.
The “writing” can be a handwritten or typed document, including an email. All parties or their lawyers must sign the document evidencing the agreement.
Texas law does recognize electronic signatures. You could enter into a Rule 11 through email communications and a Texas court could find that your electronic signature is a “signed writing” in the Rule 11 context. The email must say that it serves as a Rule 11 agreement. Just sending an email or including your signature block would not create a Rule 11 Agreement.
Lawyers or parties must voluntarily enter into Rule 11 agreements. Courts encourage parties to lawsuits to try to reach agreements.
As a party to a lawsuit, you can use a Rule 11 agreement to agree to any issues you are discussing. You may want to pass and reschedule a hearing or extend a deadline for objections and responses to written discovery requests.
You can enter into agreements for complex settlement terms about conservatorship, possession and access, child and medical support, injunctive relief, and any other parenting provisions. In a Rule 11 agreement, you and the other parent can agree about things such as how medical, psychological, and educational decisions are made. This also includes determining where your child will live and which parent will be considered the custodial parent. See Texas Family Code chapter 153.
You and the other parent can also agree about when you each will have visitation with your children. Normally, most parents have possession and access under a Standard Possession Order. A Rule 11 agreement is one tool you and the other parent can use to formally agree to different days and times for possession.
You can agree about any other parenting plan provisions concerning your child, too, like electronic communication, extracurricular activities, domestic and international travel, among other issues.
Rule 11 agreements can address support, including which parent is going to pay child support, and which parent is going to provide and pay for medical support. Parents can agree to the monthly obligation amount; what date payments should be made; and how payments are made. See Texas Family Code 154.
Starting January 1, 2021, the parties to new civil lawsuits in Texas will, with a few exceptions, have to exchange information within 30 days of the filing of an answer, waiver of service, or counterpetition. This includes all family law cases. See Required Initial Disclosures in Texas Civil Cases.
If you need additional time to exchange this information, you may enter into a Rule 11 Agreement to extend the time period to gather and provide the required information to the opposing party or attorney.
The best interest of the child is usually served when parents can agree about decisions affecting their children. If you and the other parent can reach an agreed parenting plan for your children, then you can save time and money, especially if you have hired a lawyer. Courts often will approve parents’ agreements. Having the Rule 11 agreement will help the court understand what the agreement is, and make sure that both parents are bound by it.
If you need a Rule 11 agreement for your case, you may ask an attorney to prepare a Rule 11 agreement for you, and review it before you sign it, under a limited scope representation arrangement with the attorney.
You can ask other parties to agree to push back any discovery due date through a Rule 11 Agreement. A Rule 11 Agreement must be in writing, signed, and filed with the court in order to be enforceable.
It is better to respond to discovery late than not at all. You should respond to the discovery as soon as possible.
You may file a motion to ask the court to push back the discovery due date. For this to work, you must give the court a good reason why you need more time. Ask the other parties for a Rule 11 agreement before you file a motion with the court. But file the motion before the discovery due date has passed if you can.