Agreements - § 6-5 - § 6-9
2012---Layne v. Layne, Va. Ct. of Appeals, No. 2175-11-3
The trial court erred in refusing to allow a mother to reinstate a divorce case for purposes of seeking visitation, based on a statement in the parties’ settlement agreement that the mother relinquished her parental rights. Although the trial court previously incorporated the parties’ agreement in whole, an agreement by the parties to terminate the mother’s parental rights was void as against public policy, and the divorce order incorporating such agreement was likewise void.
2015---Harris v. Harris, Va. Court of Appeals, Unpublished No. 0006-15-3
The trial court did not err in concluding that it lacked authority to modify or terminate Husband’s spousal support obligation, when the obligation was contained in a Consent Order and accompanied by the language “by the agreement of the parties and Court.” Absent equitable grounds warranting rescission, a contract cannot be judicially modified or terminated at the unilateral request of a party unless the agreement expressly authorizes such relief. Here, the final decree of divorce included the terms of the parties’ agreement regarding spousal support and contained no provision authorizing subsequent modification.
2012---Devillier v. Devillier, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0414-12-2
While a consent decree is a court order, it is contractual in its nature and should be construed as though it were a contract. The trial court did not err in interpreting one paragraph of the consent order as dealing with the mechanics of child support payment and the next paragraph as requiring a showing of a non-voluntary change in financial circumstances in order for the court to modify support. The father therefore had to show a non-voluntary change in his income because the court correctly dealt with the proceeding as a modification of child support instead of as an initial determination.
2012---Burns v. Burns, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0359-12-4
Ordinarily, a trial court’s interpretation of its own orders is entitled to deference on appeal. However, consent orders are treated differently. Although a consent order is a court order, it is contractual in nature and should be construed as though it were a contract. (Citing Newman v. Newman, 42 Va. App. 557 (2004)).
2009---Brown v. Brown, 53 Va. App. 723
Consent order resolving a show cause petition did not constitute an agreement to modify spousal support as set forth in the original divorce order. The face of the consent order made it clear that the show cause dispute to be resolved by the consent order did not concern the amount of spousal support Husband was to pay Wife, but rather concerned the manner in which Husband would pay back his support arrears. Compare Newman v. Newman, 42 Va. App. 557 (2004); and Baldwin v. Baldwin, 44 Va. App. 93 (2004).
2004---Newman v. Newman, 42 Va. App. 557
Consent decree entered into was not only an agreement between the parties, but one that rose to the level of a stipulation that was entered into and reduced to the form of an order by the parties. Under §20-109.1, a trial court may incorporate by reference contractual provisions into any decree either before or after the entry of a final order. All the more, a trial court may incorporate verbatim the terms of an agreement into the very text of a consent decree.
2011---Hawkins v. Hawkins, 82 Va. Cir. 351
Absent a compelling or unusual reason that would justify incorporating the agreement at an earlier point, the appropriate time for the court to incorporate a separation agreement is at the conclusion of a case rather than during its pendency. To do otherwise would allow the parties to ask the court to exercise its contempt powers to monitor and enforce the agreement before the court has even addressed any aspect of the case.
2010--- Howard v. Howard, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 2987-08-2
Trial court erred in holding that the spousal support amount set by the court encompassed all of husband’s financial obligations to wife, where the court had previously incorporated agreements entered into by the parties, each of which obligated husband to pay certain debts and expenses in addition to spousal support. Although the incorporated agreements required husband to pay definite expenses in addition to monthly spousal support, the agreements did not define the amount of monthly spousal support. The trial court held a hearing to set the monthly support amount, and subsequently issued a letter opinion which, while setting the monthly support amount, also expressly noted that the amount was in addition to certain expenses and debts owed by husband pursuant to the previously incorporated agreements. However, when the trial court entered its final decree pursuant to that letter opinion, the decree contained no mention of the additional debts and expenses, and instead stated only the monthly support amount. When wife moved the court to clarify the decree, the trial court held that the monthly support amount encompassed all of husband’s financial obligations to wife. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court’s clarification was in error, as it operated to alter an incorporated agreement in direct contravention of Va. Code §20-109(C).
2009---Doering v Doering, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Record No. 1234-06-2 (May 19, 2009)
Trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to incorporate the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement into their final divorce order. Husband proved a 40% reduction in his income since the execution of the Agreement, which made it impossible for him to pay support pursuant to the terms of the Agreement.
Incorporation of a Property Settlement Agreement is not a prerequisite to the binding effect of the Property Settlement Agreement between the two parties. It results, instead, in the Property Settlement Agreement being enforceable under either contract law or through the court’s contempt power. Thus, a trial court’s refusal to incorporate a Property Settlement Agreement into a divorce decree simply deprives the court of its contempt power for purposes of enforcing the agreement.
2007---Jett v. Jett, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 2862-06-4
Trial court did not err in finding pursuant to the version of Va. Code §20-109 in effect at the time the trial court entered the parties’ final decree of divorce, that the Property Settlement Agreement had been filed at or prior to the time of entry of the final decree. Even though nothing in the record establishes that the Property Settlement Agreement was formally “filed” with the court, the Court of Appeals found that the ratification and incorporation of the Property Settlement Agreement into the final decree of divorce supports the result the trial court reached which denied Husband a reduction or termination of spousal support. Additionally, the record makes clear that no dispute exists over the authenticity of the Property Settlement Agreement or its specific contents.
2005---Gaffney v. Gaffney, 45 Va. App. 655
Trial court erred in determining that parties entered into a valid and binding Property Settlement Agreement where the alleged agreement was not in writing or signed by the parties, and because the terms of the marital agreement at issue were not recorded or transcribed by a court reporter and affirmed by the parties on the record personally, the exception in Va. Code §20-155(ii) did not apply. Consequently, the trial court erred in incorporating the terms of the agreement into the final decree of divorce.
2003---Smith v. Smith, 41 Va. App. 742
Trial court erred in terminating husband’s spousal support obligation upon wife’s cohabitation with another man on the sole basis that the agreement entered into by the parties, despite contemplating termination of support only upon the death of either party or upon remarriage by wife, was merged into the final divorce decree and thereby subject to alteration by the trial court. While the distinction between merged and non-merged agreements is important in terms of available enforcement remedies, merger alone does not empower a trial court to later modify the substance of the contractual agreement entered into by the parties. That Va. Code §20-109 did not provide for a default termination of spousal support upon cohabitation at the time these parties entered into their agreement does not matter, as the law in force at the date of making a contract determines the rights of the parties under the contract. The law effective when the contract is made is as much a part of the contract as if incorporated therein.
2002---Bazzle v. Bazzle, 37 Va. App. 737
The trial court did not err in refusing to hold husband in contempt for ceasing spousal support payments despite the fact that the parties’ settlement agreement obligated him to pay support until wife’s remarriage or death. When the trial court entered the final divorce decree, it merely ordered that the settlement agreement be “filed with the papers in this cause.” When husband stopped paying spousal support, wife filed a claim for anticipatory breach of contract, and was successful in having a judgment entered against husband for a lump sum amount of support, which she calculated based on actuarial tables of life expectancy and the formula contained in the original settlement agreement. When husband had fully satisfied the money judgment, he again ceased paying support, and wife filed a show cause for his failure to comply with the payment provisions of the original settlement agreement. The Court of Appeals held that the spousal support obligations of the original settlement agreement were merged when they were reduced to a finite monetary judgment, thus preventing wife from later attempting to revive the agreement itself to pursue additional causes of action. Once husband satisfied the monetary judgment, wife lost any additional causes of action for support, and had no basis to hold husband in contempt. When a cause of action has been reduced to a judgment, the cause of action is merged into the judgment and cannot form the basis for future suits between the parties.
2001---Ellett v. Ellett, 35 Va. App. 97
In order to challenge the validity of a separation agreement that has been incorporated into a divorce decree, the challenge must be brought within twenty-one days after the entry of the divorce decree. After that time, absent an appeal, any challenge to the agreement may be made only on grounds sufficient to sustain a challenge to the divorce decree itself.
2000---Hering v. Hering, 33 Va. App. 368
A discussion of the meanings of affirmation, incorporation, and merger.
1996---Sheppard v. Sheppard, 1996 Va. App. Unpublished, 261
Trial court erred by not requiring specific performance of provisions in the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement. Wife had registered a previous North Carolina order decreeing specific performance of the agreement. The trial court’s subsequent entry of an additional order for purposes of enforcing the North Carolina decree should have included an order of specific performance as well.
1986---Forrest v. Forrest, 3 Va. App. 236 (1986)
The language of Va. Code §20-109.1 gives the trial court discretion in determining whether a property settlement agreement should be incorporated by reference into a final decree of divorce. Absent an abuse of discretion, the trial court’s decision must be upheld on appeal.
Va. Code §20-109.1 does not require the trial court to conduct a separate inquiry into the validity of a property settlement agreement that appears valid on its face. To do so would place an unnecessary burden on the trial court, and would improperly encourage parties to attack the validity of agreements simply because they have changed their minds. Such a result would be contrary to the public policy of prompt resolution of property disputes in divorce cases through voluntary, court-approved agreements.
1985---Rodriquez v. Rodriquez, 1 Va. App. 87
An agreement is enforceable as part of the decree only if it is incorporated into the decree.
2016 --- Carrano v. Carrano, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0693-15-4
The trial court erred by modifying Husband’s obligation to provide health insurance for his step-son and his obligation to pay Wife’s attorney’s fees as provided by the parties’ settlement agreement. The trial court lacked authority to modify the terms of the agreement by making Husband’s obligation to provide health insurance for his step-son contingent on Husband’s ability to obtain such insurance “at little or no cost,” which was not provided in the settlement agreement. Similarly, once the trial court found that Husband was in violation of the agreement, which provided that Wife would receive attorney’s fees in the event of such finding, the trial court was without authority to deny Wife recovery of her fees.
Where Husband was found in contempt of court for failure to pay spousal support of $1,800 per month as set forth in the parties’ settlement agreement, it was error for the trial court to approve a purge plan for Husband’s contempt which provided, in part, that so long as Husband paid $600 per month, Husband would not be held in contempt for failure to pay the full amount of $1,800. Although the holding did not absolve Husband of his duty to pay the amounts due under the agreement, it effectively modified the timing of the payments due under the agreement. Absent a finding of an inability to pay all or part of the obligation, which could not be the case given the court’s finding that Husband was in contempt, the court’s purge plan constituted a de facto modification of the parties’ agreement and thus was beyond the court’s authority to order.
2011---McNamee v. McNamee, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 1070-10-2
Statements in an email from wife to husband stating that she would "accept" less in spousal support for a period of time and requesting that husband respond by "submitting questions or objections to these terms in writing by reply email" were not clear and unequivocal statements sufficient to create a modification of the parties' settlement agreement. Wife did not specifically state that the amount was reduced, and nothing in the record revealed husband's agreement and acceptance of the specific terms of the offer, despite the fact that husband did in fact pay the lesser amount of alimony for the period in question. Moreover, the email was not executed with the same formalities (signatures and notarization) as the settlement agreement, pursuant to the modification clause of the settlement agreement.
2009---Doering v Doering, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Record No. 1234-06-2 (May 19, 2009)
Trial court did not err in reducing Husband’s spousal support obligation in accordance with the Property Settlement Agreement of the parties when entering the final order of divorce, despite court’s refusal to incorporate the Property Settlement Agreement into the final order. The Property Settlement Agreement provided that either party could petition court for a support modification based upon a material change in circumstances. Husband proved a 40% income reduction since the execution of the Property Settlement Agreement. Neither Va. Code §20-109.1 nor Va. Code §20-109 require that a court incorporate a Property Settlement Agreement into a final order of divorce before ruling on a party’s request to modify a certain provision of the Property Settlement Agreement in accordance with express terms in the Property Settlement Agreement providing for such modification.
2007---Whitney v. Whitney, 2007 Va. App. Unpublished, 203
In a contract dispute about support obligations, the trial court lacked the authority to postpone the accrual of interest and to decree that Wife was not entitled to post-judgment interest in accordance with Va. Code §8.01-382. Husband had an obligation to pay support, including health insurance when due, and his failure to do so created a judgment by operation of law. Wife is entitled to interest on the judgment for those support payments as provided by statute.
Trial court erred in failing to award full accounting expenses associated with the divorce to Wife because it was inconsistent with the parties’ agreement. Trial court did not err in not awarding Wife expenses that were not contemplated by the terms of the agreement.
1996---Pendleton v. Pendleton, 22 Va. App. 503
Va. Code §20-109 precludes court from modifying spousal support where the parties contractually agree upon amount of spousal support and agreement has been incorporated into the final divorce decree. Trial court does not have the authority to modify support, except as provided in the agreement. Parrillo, 1 Va. App. 226 (1985)
1996---Twinam v. Twinam, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0765-96-4
The trial court did not err in finding that wife was equitably estopped from contesting the validity of a modification to the parties’ settlement agreement, where wife’s primary argument against the modification was that her and husband’s signatures to the modification were not notarized, and thus not executed “with the same formality” as the original agreement. The modification was in writing and signed by both parties, and both parties operated under the modification for over five years. Wife’s conduct in signing the modification and accepting modified child support payments by husband induced husband to believe that the modification was uncontested. Moreover, mother’s challenge, if successful, would result in a substantial back debt owed by father.
2016--- Jones v. Jones, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0062-15-2
The trial court did not err in including in its order dividing Husband’s military retirement plan a term requiring Husband to indemnify Wife in the event Husband circumvented Wife’s entitlement to her share of the plan. Although the parties’ settlement agreement contained no such indemnification provision, the agreement plainly manifested an intention for Wife to receive one-half of husband’s retirement plan. Wife’s interest in Husband’s retirement plan vested once the agreement was incorporated into the final decree of divorce. Accordingly, in the event Wife receives a reduced sum as a result of Husband’s actions, Wife would be entitled to indemnification. The trial court did, however, err in allowing provisions of the division order to prohibit Husband from making the actual elections which would potentially effect the value of Wife’s interest in the plan, as the parties settlement agreement failed to provide for such restrictions.
2013---Cabral v. Cabral, 62 Va. App. 600
The trial court erred in interpreting language in a settlement agreement providing for the future litigation of “undisclosed or omitted assets” to apply to an asset owned by a business in which Husband had an interest, rather than owned by either party. The parties cannot grant, even through settlement agreement, authority to the trial court that the court would not otherwise possess. Where a particular asset was not an asset of the parties, and thus, would not have been subject to equitable distribution at trial, the trial court erred in interpreting the “undisclosed asset” provisions of the agreement to apply to such property.
2012---Parsons v. Parsons , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 1051-11-4
The trial court erred in awarding wife any interest in the marital residence, despite the fact that the residence was acquired during the marriage and titled jointly. The parties’ premarital agreement provided that all income earned by a party during the marriage would remain that party’s separate property, and husband adequately traced at trial each monetary contribution to the acquisition of the residence to his separate property.
2011--- Myers v. Myers, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 1509-10-3
The trial court did not err in holding that language in parties' settlement agreement stating that wife was entitled to 50% of the value of "husband's retirement plan at [husband's employer]" entitled wife to 50% of both a pension plan and a stock savings plan acquired by husband through his employer. In reliance on Hale v. Hale, 42 Va. App. 27 (2003), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling that the term "retirement plan" covered both plans held by husband, despite the fact that the agreement also included an express waiver of any interest in retirement assets that were not mentioned in the agreement.
2011--- Roth v. Roth, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 1332-10-4
The trial court did not err in holding that the parties' settlement agreement did not grant wife an equitable interest in a retirement pension of husband's that was not yet in existence at the time the agreement was entered into. Although the agreement stated that “husband had retirement benefits...including the Virginia Supplemental Retirement System (VSRS),” and further provided for the distribution of those benefits, it also stated that each party waived any interest in property not specifically mentioned in the agreement, “whether now owned or hereafter acquired.” Shortly after the divorce, the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) was first created, and husband acquired an additional pension with the VRS automatically by virtue of his years of service as a teacher, a number of which were acquired during the marriage. Though wife argued that the use of the word “including” in the agreement connoted a non-exclusive list, the trial court nonetheless correctly found that the agreement could not be construed to provide her an interest in property that did not exist at the time the agreement was entered into.
2010---Savedge v. Barbour, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 2713-09-1
Wife waived her rights to any interest in husband’s military retirement accounts when entering into a settlement agreement that did not mention the accounts, but which purported to be a “full settlement, release and discharge of all interest by dower and any and all other claims which wife has or might have for alimony and for support and maintenance or otherwise,” and which stated that the parties agreed to a mutual release of any and all rights in the property then owned or thereafter acquired by either party. That husband’s accounts were not made subject to equitable distribution under Virginia law until after the parties signed their agreement was not sufficient to overcome wife’s waiver. Where a valid release has been executed and made part of a decree, a party to that decree may not reopen it for modification based upon a change in the law. (Citing Himes v. Himes, 12 Va. App. 966 (1991)).
2009---Lewis v. Lewis, 53 Va. App. 528
Trial court did not err in holding that Wife was entitled to interest earned on the portion of Husband’s profit-sharing account awarded to her under the terms of the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement, where the Property Settlement Agreement contained no language specifically stating that the parties intended to allot Wife only half of that account as of a fixed date such as the date of separation. Instead, the Property Settlement Agreement awarded Wife half of the “marital share” only, which did in fact accrue passive interest after the parties separated and after the parties signed the Property Settlement Agreement.
The Court also considered the fact the Property Settlement Agreement had specifically divided that account such that Husband was no longer entitled to control Wife’s portion of the money, and that by withdrawing all of the money from that account and depositing it into different annuities after the Property Settlement Agreement was signed, Husband improperly deprived Wife of the opportunity to control her portion of the account, thereby frustrating the intention of the Property Settlement Agreement. In awarding Wife post-separation growth on her portion of that account, the trial court simply gave effect to the intention of the Property Settlement Agreement.
2004---Smith v. Smith. 43 Va. App. 279
Although the law presumes property acquired during a marriage to be marital property, the parties may defeat that presumption by agreement. Contracts seeking to do this before marriage, should be interpreted and enforced no differently than any other type of contract.
2003---Hale v. Hale, 42 Va. App. 27
Trial court erred in finding that the settlement agreement entered into by the parties contemplated the equal division of husband’s pension plan only, rather than the equal division of the both his pension 401K plans. The Court of Appeals held that the intent embodied in the agreement was that both plans be divided equally, based on the following: (i) use of the heading “DISTRIBUTION OF PENSION BENEFITS,” which was plural rather than singular; (ii) the reference in the provision itself to husband’s “vested pension plan with his employer to which wife would have a claim of equitable distribution,” coupled with the facts that both plans were through husband’s employer and presumably subject to equitable distribution; and (iii) a general statement in the agreement that the parties intended “the settlement of their property rights.”
2004---Boedeker v. Larson, 44 Va. App. 508
Trial court did not err in classifying a defined, lump-sum payment that Husband could opt to receive up front if he committed to remain on active duty in the military for a total of twenty years as a retirement benefit, based on Husband’s admission to the trial court that his electing to receive that payment would reduce his normal retirement benefit, and thus, wife’s share of that benefit. The parties’ settlement agreement specifically indicated that “all retirement and pension types of accounts have been disclosed,” and specifically provided that wife was entitled to share equally in the marital portion of husband’s military retirement. It made no mention of husband’s entitlement to any other sort of militarybenefit or bonus, and gave no indication that husband would be permitted under the terms of the agreement to reduce the amount of retirement benefit to which wife would be entitled by relinquishing a portion of his military retirement in exchange for some other benefit to which he alone would be entitled.
2002---Faulknier v. Shafer, 264 Va. 210
In a dispute over the proceeds of a life insurance policy, the decedent’s former Wife alleged sufficient facts to state a cause of action for the imposition of a constructive trust on the insurance proceeds. On remand, issues such as whether the decedent’s estate has sufficient assets to satisfy former Wife’s claim, and if so, whose share of the estate would be depleted by such a payment; whether Wife at the time of decedent’s death was a gratuitous recipient of the life insurance proceeds; when she learned about the decedent’s beneficiary designation on his life insurance policy; and whether she knew about the terms of the separation agreement between the decedent and the former Wife are matters to be considered in determining whether former Wife establishes by clear and convincing evidence her entitlement to a constructive trust on the life insurance proceeds.
2000---Campbell v. Campbell, 32 Va. App. 351
To the extent the parties have already stipulated to a certain disposition of their property, the court may not decree inconsistent relief in equitable distribution.
2000---Allsbury v. Allsbury, 33 Va. App. 385
Trial court did not err in holding that the language in the parties’ settlement agreement which provided wife a portion of husband’s state department pension benefits “regardless of marital status to the extent allowable by federal law” was intended to ensure that wife received the benefit notwithstanding subsequent remarriage, which, in the absence of the language in the agreement, would have disqualified her from receiving the benefit under the federal law governing the pension plan. The federal law governing the plan allowed parties to waive the remarriage disqualifier through agreement or court order. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals found that the agreement, when read as a whole, expressed a clear intent that wife receive the benefits regardless of what happened, as evidenced by numerous accompanying provisions preventing husband from subsequently taking action to reduce or eliminate the award.
1999---Kelln v. Kelln, 30 Va. App. 113
Marital property can be transformed into separate property under the terms of a revocable trust agreement executed during a marriage. However, it is not enough to merely change legal title. Where the facts clearly and unambiguously support the conclusion that one of the parties has relinquished all right and interest in marital property and has transferred those rights unconditionally to the other, to the exclusion of the donor’s continuing claim upon the property as a marital asset pursuant to Va. Code § 20- 107.3, a separate property right will be found to exist. Equivocal evidence of intent, including evidence of a purpose unrelated to the making of a gift, may defeat a claim that the property is separate. Where evidence of intent to relinquish all present and future dominion over the property so as to remove it from the marital estate is lacking, the presumption of Va. Code § 20-107.3(A)(2) that property acquired by either spouse during a marriage is marital remains unrebutted.
Trial court erred in classifying as separate property certain assets that were divided into equal shares and transferred during the marriage into two, separate inter vivos trusts owned by husband and wife, respectively. The agreement that set up the revocable trusts was clearly a mechanism intended to enable the parties to take advantage of certain tax code provisions in order to minimize federal estate tax liabilities upon either party’s death, and did not express an intent by either party to make a “gift” to the other of the divided and transferred shares. The agreement lacked language of clear donative intent, and the fact that the trusts were revocable further rebutted the notion that either party had relinquished all rights and interest to the separate shares that were transferred into the other party’s trust.
1996---Gordon v. Whitt, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0847-95-4
Trial court erred in holding that a provision in the parties’ settlement agreement requiring husband to be liable for the “current indebtedness” of a home equity line of credit secured by the marital residence limited husband’s obligation to the interest incurred on that credit line only, rather than both the interest and the principle debt of that credit line that became due upon the subsequent sale of the home. The term “current indebtedness” was unambiguous, despite the parties’ differing positions with regard to the interpretation of that term.
1995---Nicholson v. Nicholson, 21 Va. App. 231
General language in the parties’ settlement agreement stating that the parties “desire to effect a full and complete settlement of their respective property rights;” that the parties agree that each has “the right to sell or otherwise dispose of any and all property, which he or she may now or in the future own personally (and not listed herein) without demand being made upon either of them;” and that the parties each “relinquish and release to the other all rights…that he or she may have in the property hereinafter acquired by either of them” did not constitute an express waiver, pursuant to 22 U.S.C. §4054(a), by wife of all rights to share in husband’s Foreign Service pension. Although a general waiver or release may be sufficient if, from the terms of the agreement, the parties’ intent to include pension or retirement benefits is clear and unambiguous, the settlement agreement of the parties here did not mention the pension or any other retirement accounts, either generally or specifically.
1989---Dean v. Dean, 8 Va. App. 143 (1989)
Wife’s general waiver of her rights to equitable distribution, spousal support, and attorney’s fees in the parties’ settlement agreement did not alone constitute a waiver of her legal title or rights to jointly owned property, where the agreement did not address such rights. To read the agreement of the parties otherwise would require the court to read into the contract language which added or took away from the meaning of the words contained therein.