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The Court’s Gentle Hand: “Stip or Appear”

In matrimonial actions, the receipt of a proposed Stipulation of Settlement evokes hope of an imminent resolution to the action. This is because the receipt is generally due to successful negotiations regarding some or all of the matrimonial issues. While there are usually numerous modifications and revisions of the stipulation exchanged between the attorneys, the litigants often feel like the end is in sight. Additionally, during this process, it is not uncommon for the attorneys to request adjournments of upcoming court dates, in order to continue to work on the stipulation and save the litigants the expense of unnecessary court appearances.

While courts are all too happy to adjourn appearances when there is a written settlement agreement being worked on, the court’s tolerance for multiple adjournment requests in this regard is guarded, and results in what is commonly referred to as a “stip or appear” date. This is a scheduled court appearance whereby the court will excuse the appearance upon the prior receipt of the first and signature pages of a Stipulation of Settlement. If same is not received, the parties and counsel must appear and explain to the Court what is delaying a resolution.

When more than one “stip or appear” date has been permitted, it is likely that the Court will demand that the parties appear and remain in court until a settlement has been reached. This is often referred to as “stip or stay,” and generally results in a resolution to the action.

While a “stip or stay” appearance may seem punitive to litigants, it is often necessary in order to compel the litigants to relent obstructive positions and negotiate on remaining issues in a more reasonable manner. In essence, it is really the Court’s gentle, but firm push towards a more reasonable, expeditious and cost effective end to the matrimonial action.

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