The Four Corners Rule
The four corners rule is an interpretation of contract law which states that if all of the necessary elements of a contract are included within its four corners, then those terms control. The “four corners” refer to the four sides (or corners) of a document, which are typically considered when determining if all relevant information has been included. This rule was established to protect people from fraudulent or deceitful behavior, such as one party claiming something was agreed upon when it was not.
Essentially, this means that any extraneous information outside of what was specifically agreed upon in writing is irrelevant. In other words, if you have signed a contract and all terms were included in that document, then no additional verbal agreement will be taken into consideration by a court if you ask the court to enforce the contract.
For example, if you and your spouse verbally agree on division of assets but do not include these terms in your divorce paperwork, then the court will likely not enforce your agreement. Thus, it is important to ensure that all agreements are included in your divorce paperwork – and that is where a lawyer comes in.
Parole Evidence Doctrine
The parole evidence doctrine prevents parties from introducing evidence outside of the written agreement as it pertains to intent or meaning. This means that any statements made verbally cannot be used against another party if there is already an agreement in place which has been signed by both parties. For example, if one spouse agrees to pay off all debts as part of the divorce settlement but says something verbally about doing more than what was stated in writing, the parole evidence doctrine would prevent them from being held liable for anything additional beyond what was agreed upon in writing.
It also applies when it comes to interpreting contracts; any verbal statements made prior to signing cannot be used as evidence when determining the intent or meaning behind an agreement. This is particularly important for couples who might have had conversations about dividing assets or debts prior to signing their papers—any verbal agreements made at that time cannot be enforced later on if they are not included within the written contract itself.
When entering into any type of legal agreement—especially when it comes to divorce—it's important to make sure that all the things that were negotiated are included within its four corners so that your rights and interests can remain protected. Verbal promises that go beyond what was initially agreed upon in writing; otherwise, those agreements may not be legally enforceable down the line.
When you hire my office to draft your uncontested divorce, I make sure that I have put all of the agreements you have into writing. That way, its clear what your post-divorce life entitles you to, and what debts you have to pay for. If you and your soon-to-be-ex are able to come to agreements, I can help you turn those agreements into your dirove paperwork. Reach out through my website or call my office.