You or your partner can make an Offer to Settle at any time during the court process. And you can make more than one Offer to Settle.
An Offer to Settle is an offer made by one party to the other party to settle some or all of the issues in your case. You can accept an Offer, reject an Offer, or make a counter-Offer.
You must serve your Offer on your partner, and their lawyer if they have one. Rule 6: Service of documents tells you how to serve your documents.
If you, or your partner, accept an Offer, you put the terms of the Offer into a written document. This document is called a consent agreement or minutes of settlement and you both sign it. The Step Bring a regular motion has more information on how to ask for a consent order.
Time limits and costs
An Offer to Settle may have a time limit. For example, you may give your partner up to a certain date, or time, or both, to respond to your Offer. If your Offer doesn't include a time limit, it lasts until the judge decides the issues in your Offer or until you withdraw your Offer.
The judge hearing your case or motion must not be told about any Offers to Settle until they have dealt with all the issues you're trying to resolve.
The judge looks at any Offers you or your partner made that were not accepted, when deciding if there should be an order for costs. Rule 18: Offers to settle says that if the judge makes an order that is similar to, or better than, an Offer one party made that the other party did not accept, there may be cost consequences. This means that the party who did not accept the Offer may have to pay a part of the other party's legal fees.
For there to be cost consequences, an Offer to Settle must:
- be signed by the party making the Offer,
- be made at least 7 days before the trial,
- still be valid, meaning it has not expired or been withdrawn before the trial begins, and
- not be accepted by the other party.
Time limits and the issue of costs only apply to Offers to Settle made during a motion or trial. It does not apply to Offers made during case conferences or settlement conferences. At those conferences, Offers are discussed openly with the judge and your partner to try and agree on your issues.