The ideal divorce situation for most people is one where everyone agrees on who gets what, everyone walks away happy, and the court case is over quickly. People who are going through a divorce and want to maintain a positive relationship are often hesitant to engage attorneys, as they fear making the divorce process more litigious and confrontational. Lawyers draft long, complex agreements with restrictions that appear to micromanage finances and time with children.
However, choosing to not use attorneys often leads to very basic, bare-bones Marital Settlement Agreements and Parenting Plans. Language such as “fifty-fifty timesharing” or “holidays will be as agreed upon by the Parties in the future” is not uncommon when pro se litigants are being amicable and working things out on their own. This usually works well for a short period of time into the future, until something changes. Maybe one party starts dating or relying on a new significant other for childcare. Maybe one party’s financial situation changes drastically and child support needs modification. Perhaps even something as simple as both parties wanting the children for the same week during summer break for a vacation causes a disagreement.
When a problem like this arises, the lack of a specific agreement to fall back on can take what was an extremely simple, friendly divorce, and turn it into a quite lengthy post-judgment modification or enforcement action. The easiest way to avoid a second go-around with the court system is to have a specific agreement in the initial case. Even if the parties agree to draft what is essentially a “fall-back” agreement, knowing that they intend to continue to get along and do what works best for them, having a specific agreement drafted and available to pull out and use drastically decreases the chance of future litigation, because any disagreement should be resolved by a simple reading of the contract entered into during the initial divorce. Allowing an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney to assist in the drafting of these contracts is the best way to ensure that you only have to go through the process one time.