It’s easy for some couples who get along to think that they don’t need to create a very detailed divorce agreement and custody schedule. They assume that they’ll be on good terms for years to come. The rule is that your agreement should have sufficient specificity so, if you’re not getting along with your “ex”, you have the necessary specifics to avoid conflict.
Of course, we always hope parties will put the children first and get along. However, in my line of work, I’ve witnessed just how vicious and underhanded things can become years down the line.
The bottom line is this: if you are getting divorced, hire an attorney who knows what he or she is doing, and get an airtight divorce and parenting agreement. A good attorney will have the ability to foresee potential issues that could arise years down the line. If you’re ready, call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a complimentary consultation.
Child Custody Issues
If you share children with your spouse, your attorney’s job is to predict any issues that may come along years down the line and add language to the agreement that sets guidelines for those situations. One major thing in parenting agreements is travel, especially if one of the parent is from another country or has family based in a foreign country.
Here’s a war story: I worked with one mother who was a French American. She had her American citizenship, but her parents and siblings all lived in France, and she had grown up there. Her ex-husband was American, and they shared two children together. When they were divorced, it was very amiable, and the father even agreed to let the children go to France for a couple of months every summer.
Fast-forward seven years, and the mother has remarried a Frenchman. She tells the father of her children that she wants them to attend school in France for a year to give them a real sense of the country, and the father gets very upset. Unfortunately for them, the parenting agreement did not have any details about whether or not the mother could move the kids to France for an entire school year, so they spent tens of thousands of dollars in Court trying to get everything sorted out.
In the end, the judge ruled that the children would have to go to school in the United States, but that they could still visit France in the summertime, as they had been for many years.
In my opinion, this father was petrified that his ex-wife would take the children to France “just for one year” and they would never come back. Since the mother is French and had close relatives in France, it’s not a stretch to imagine that she would want to move back to Europe at some point. Their legal battle could have been prevented if their attorneys had put language in the divorce agreement that set up agreed-upon guidelines for the children’s travel.
Get Specific with Terms
The more specific you can be when it comes to the terms of your parenting agreement, the less likely you are to engage in bitter conflicts down the line.
I once worked with a father who came into a sum of money after one of his relatives passed away. He was thrilled, because he’d always dreamed of taking his two boys on a vacation to the Florida Keys. He was supposed to have the boys for Spring Break, and he called up his ex-wife and said, “I got some money, and I want to take the boys to Florida for spring break. I’ll pick them up on Saturday morning and drop them off again the following Sunday so they can get back in the swing of things before school starts again.”
She said, “Well, in my opinion, spring break is a school break, and it technically doesn’t include the weekends. So that means you can pick them up on Monday and they have to be back here by Friday.”
My client was dumbfounded. Why would she want to cut the boys’ vacation nearly in half?
The reason doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the parenting agreement they had both signed didn’t spell out how exactly a “school vacation” was defined. Because of that, the two of them went through a drawn-out Court battle that could have been avoided completely… and it was all because of they didn’t define when Spring Break started and ended.
This same kind of thing happens with holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day. Is the entire weekend a holiday, or just the Monday? These are the kinds of details that most people never think of, and they need to be clarified in your agreement.
Get it Done Right the First Time
If you’re going through a divorce, take the extra time it might require to get your agreements spelled out in as much detail as possible. In my experience, this will save you a great deal of time, energy and money — not to mention heartache — in the future.
Call our office at 303-449-1873 for a free consultation today.