Govern your separation agreement, or it will govern you.

 

No one knows what the future holds.  That includes (shockingly) attorneys, no matter what they tell you. That means that your divorce or family law negotiation will not cover everything that may come up in your life down the road. 

Also, there is no perfect contract.  That’s certainly true for the special kinds of family law contracts that in North Carolina are called Separation Agreements and Property Settlements. Every contract, and therefore, every Separation Agreement is a compromise between thoroughness and brevity.  In order to address every possible future contingency in a contract it would be thousands of pages long, or more.  No attorney can draft that inNo one knows what the future holds. That includes (shockingly) attorneys, no matter what they tell you. That means that your divorce or family law negotiation will not cover everything that may come up in your life down the road.
Also, there is no perfect contract. That’s certainly true for the special kinds of family law contracts that in North Carolina are called Separation Agreements and Property Settlements. Every contract, and therefore, every Separation Agreement is a compromise between thoroughness and brevity. To address every possible future contingency in a contract, it would be thousands of pages long, or more. No attorney can draft that in any humanly reasonable timeline or for any reasonable expense. There are certain issues and situations that we know need to be covered because they have come up so often that they are generally foreseeable, or they have been specifically addressed by courts in the past. But, other future events just cannot be addressed in your agreement because they are too hypothetical, unpredictable, or unlikely to occur.
That means that it is entirely possible that after you sign your Separation Agreement something will happen that will not be anticipated or addressed in your agreement. Illness, relocations, new job opportunities, job loss, family events, and new relationships are just some of the events that can pop up but may not have pre-determined answers in your agreement. Or, your agreement did cover the new events but the solutions that seemed to work back then now don’t fit your lives for some reason.
That’s where the ability to communicate and reasonably work with each other comes in. When these unanticipated events pop up, you need to be able to communicate with your ex-spouse to avoid a molehill becoming a mountain. People that can not effectively handle these conversations end up back in their lawyer’s office, or worse, in court.
When there is no answer in your agreement, or those answers are outdated, then you have to figure it out between yourselves. Even after you have signed your divorce settlement agreement, the job of communicating, negotiating, and adjusting is not over. If you can productively communicate with each other then you will most likely be able to adjust your agreement and move on. If you cannot, then the agreement may feel like something that you are being forced to comply with, even when it doesn’t work for you anymore.
In general, I tell clients this: If you can communicate and be reasonable, then you will govern your agreement. If you cannot, then the agreement will govern you. any humanly reasonable timeline or for any reasonable expense.  There are certain issues and situations that we know need to be covered because they have come up so often that they are generally foreseeable, or they have been specifically addressed by courts in the past.  But, other future events just cannot be addressed in your agreement because they are too hypothetical, unpredictable, or unlikely to occur.

That means that it is entirely possible that after you sign your Separation Agreement something will happen that will not be anticipated or addressed in your agreement.  Illness, relocations, new job opportunities, job loss, family events, and new relationships are just some of the events that can pop up but may not have pre-determined answers in your agreement.  Or, your agreement did cover the new events but the solutions that seemed to work back then now don’t fit your lives for some reason. 

That’s where the ability to communicate and work with each other in a reasonable way comes in. When these unanticipated events pop up, you need to be able to communicate with your ex-spouse in order to avoid a mole hill becoming a mountain. People that can not effectively handle these conversations end up back in their lawyer’s office, or worse, in court.  

When there is no answer in your agreement, or those answers are outdated, then you have to figure it out between yourselves. Even after you have signed your divorce settlement agreement, the job of communicating, negotiating, and adjusting is not over.  If you can communicate with each other in a reasonable way then you will most likely be able to adjust your agreement and move on.  If you cannot, then the agreement may feel like something that you are being forced to comply with, even when it doesn’t work for you anymore. 

In general I tell clients this:  If you can communicate and be reasonable, then you will govern your agreement.  If you cannot, then the agreement will govern you. 

 

 

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