You and your divorce settlement agreement. The newest BFFs on the block.
If you're been through a divorce and are still connected to your ex in some way (business, kids, real estate, etc), finding that delicate balance of moving forward while being cordial can be challenging.
When things seem fine between you, you may even be inclined to exhibit some good will behavior by helping each other out or doing things in good faith that are not required of you by the divorce settlement agreement.
However, if your relationship becomes strained and you no longer want to extend certain courtesies, the terms of your Divorce Settlement Agreement always prevail. You are not setting a precedent simply because you did a favor and it's perceived by your ex as a change in your divorce agreement terms.
So if and when you hear, "you've set a precedent so it must continue," your response should simply be, "the divorce settlement agreement prevails, there is no precedence." Just shut it down.
You must have a full understanding of your divorce settlement agreement.
Chances are it'll become your voice of reason and your best friend for some time to come. This is why it is so important that you are an active voice when it's being drafted by your attorney and that you have a full understanding of its meaning by the time you signed.
Believe me, one word in a sentence can mean either winning or losing an argument.
When it's being reviewed with you, ask questions if you don't understand something. Challenge the way something is being written if you see a possible loophole. Don't simply assume that your lawyer is smarter than you.
Of course your divorce attorney knows the laws and how to write things out legally, but only you know your ex, your situation and the dynamics of how you deal with each other.
The reason you need to have a firm understanding of your divorce settlement agreement is so that you can present your position on potential future disputes with full support of what you both legally agreed to.
Additionally, if you still are at a standoff on a matter and it requires the involvement of the Courts, if you confidently understand your divorce agreement, you can represent yourself and not spend thousands to have your attorney to do it for you.
During a dispute, a judge isn't there to change your divorce agreement. A judge is there to uphold a legal contract.
That's why it's so important that you understand everything in it. Follow what you agreed to and you should be fine.
If you have any matters tying you to your ex for any period of time and there are legal disputes, you could end up spending as much or more on legal fees post divorce as you did to get divorced.
I'm not suggesting that every matter can or should be handled without a lawyer, but what I am saying is that if you leave the marriage with a solid understanding of each topic and the legal language written to protect you from disputes, there will be matters that you could consider handling on your own.
If you have the slightest doubt in your ability to handle legal matters on your own, then get legal advice immediately.
Here's the bottom line though. You've just paid handsomely for a divorce agreement that is designed to protect both parties. It's a legally binding contract that is accepted and signed by both of you. If you're smart, in both good times and in bad, you will never deviate from it!
Yes, I did say never.
Even if by doing so it's better for you. Even if you want to build a better rapport with your ex. Even if you want things to feel normal again. Even if... well, I could go on but you get the picture.
Always stick to your divorce settlement agreement and you will save yourself from a lot of grief.
Has your ex tried to alter your divorce agreement? Tell us how in the comments below.
Al writes more about divorce on his blog, Divorce Candor