How to break a legal contract is a task that can be completed if certain contract terms are not met. These include if the signers are not competent to agree to the terms of the contract or if the other party breaks the contract. It is important to start with what makes a contract a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. A contract requires four parts to be considered legal. They are:

  • A mutual agreement to the terms of the contract. Either party cannot be under duress and are freely entering the contract terms when signing.
  • Two or more parties who are legally competent to agree to the contract. A mentally incompetent or underaged person signing a contract will void the contract.
  • A consideration is listed for all parties in the contract. The consideration is the financial amount or item used in the trade for services stated in the contract.
  • A lawful outcome when the contract is executed. A contract cannot be used for any illegal activities.

The contract must include terms and an exchange of something of value between the parties.

Legally Breaking a Contract

Legally breaking a contract is possible under certain conditions.

  1. If the other party on the contract breaks the contract first, you are no longer held to the terms of the contract. This may occur if the other party sells a product to someone else or if they let you know in advance that they don't plan to honor the contract agreement.
  2. If the contract is signed but the signer did not fully understand the terms, it may be voidable. If the other party disagrees, this may require a judge to decide the validity of the contract.
  3. If the signer does not qualify under mental capacity, the contract can be broken. Mentally handicapped persons or minors are not allowed to sign contracts under the law.
  4. If the contract contains an opt-out option, you have the ability to leave the contract without any responsibility, usually within a certain timeframe.

Spoken and Written Contracts

Contracts can be written, or in some cases, spoken. Spoken (or oral) contracts are difficult to prove and, therefore, are often difficult to enforce in a court of law. Depending on the type of contract, it must be written to be enforceable. These include contracts used in real estate, repayment of debt by another party, or an agreement that will take longer than one year to satisfy. The courts expect that written contracts have been fully read and understood before the parties sign. It is also expected that the signatures show that the terms have been agreed to.

The guidelines that are expected when agreeing and signing a contract include:

  • The contract has been read and fully understood.
  • The contract should not be signed if there are blanks.
  • The signature line should not be on a page by itself.
  • The item(s) or financial terms that are promised are written clearly.
  • The contract includes all details related to the product description, quality of goods, terms of service, etc.
  • Any provisions for contract cancellation are listed.
  • The contract should be signed and dated by all parties.
  • The contract copies are identical and given to all parties.
  • Signed and dated copies are kept in a safe location.

Contract Cancellations

When a breach of contract occurs by the other party and causes a financial loss, you will be entitled to compensation and cancellation of the contract should be considered. Contract cancellation will be determined by what is stated in the terms of the contract. It would need to show that cancellation is possible and that the law supports it.

Most contracts include termination clauses that will state you can cancel the contract at any point in time, a specific period of time, or if notice is expected prior to cancellation. The contracts may also list the types of breaches that must occur for the cancellation to be valid. If cancellation details are not included, the law of the contract would tell you if you can cancel the contract. To determine what is permitted, first read the contract in full. This will direct your rights under the terms of the contract.

If you need help reading a contract or help with how to break a legal contract, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.