The case of Xydhias v Xydhias is the most important of a number of cases concerning when parties are deemed to have agreed to settle their matrimonial claims.
The details of the case are rather immaterial, but for the fact that during the course of negotiations, the parties concluded a draft agreement, which left two minor issues outstanding. Following this negotiation, the wife’s lawyers wrote to the court asking them to vacate the final hearing and list the case for a hearing dealing simply with the drafting of an order. The husband then announced, however, that he would be fighting the case and withdrew all existing offers. The wife applied to the court for him to “show cause” why he should not be bound by the agreement.
The husband argued that normal contractual principles should apply, and that an agreement should only be considered binding once all details have been finalised.
The court disagreed with this approach, holding that family law negotiations do not give rise to enforceable contracts and so the principles of contract law do not apply. The court concluded that, in the interests of keeping the court list free of unnecessary hearings, parties should be held to deals if they have substantively agreed and the only outstanding points are either trivial or mechanics.
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