Not every divorce begins with one person walking out and slamming the door behind them. Sometimes a couple grows apart, or realizes they are great friends, but not so good as a married couple. When a divorce is amicable or when both parties are agreeable as to the split of property or custody and visitation of the kids, there is little rush to get to an attorney because no one feels threatened.
But what happens when Dad finds a new girlfriend, who you come to find out is actually the Wicked Witch of the West and somehow managed to escape from the Land of OZ (turns out Dorothy doesn’t have exclusive use rights to the “Heel Click Transportation System”)? Now she is hanging around your kids teaching them how to use the flying monkeys for evil.
Maybe you should’ve considered getting your ex-husband to agree in writing that he would never bring an evil being into his home or let an evil witch spend time with your children. Too late now - he and the wicked witch have all the time they want with your kids, and to get it changed, you're going to have to hire a lawyer, go to court, and ask a judge to order the witch to stay away from your children.
All kidding aside, the fact is that although you and your ex get along now, there is no guarantee that you will ALWAYS get along. It’s hard enough for two parents who are in a loving, happy marriage to agree on decisions that involve their kids. Leave those big decisions up to two people who don’t even live under the same roof and have never discussed the scenarios that require decision-making, or add a couple of step-parents into the mix to make it four heads instead of just two, and you’re creating a recipe for disaster.
Another concern is imperfect memory. People aren’t built like computers. We can’t just press a button and pull up a conversation we had three months ago regarding our child custody arrangement. It may be easy to come to an agreement now, but not so easy to remember every aspect of that agreement later, especially when there are several issues that are addressed. If you don’t put an agreement into writing, how will each person remember all the specifics a few months down the road, let alone a few years?
The same concerns hold true for child support, the division of property, and alimony. Although everyone has the best of intentions at the outset, there is just no telling what issues may arise, how feeling may be hurt, or what conflicts may be brought about by outside influences down the road. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to sit down with a Family Law Attorney and figure out all the issues involved in your particular situation. Then, talk to the other party involved and come up with answers to all the questions that could potentially arise in the future. An attorney can advise you of all the requirements of an enforceable agreement and help you to put your wishes in writing.
The fact is, the perfect time to get a separation agreement in place is when you are your ex are on good terms, no one feels threatened, and you're both in agreement on most of the issues. Putting everything in writing will avoid conflict and unneeded stress down the road. By doing this now, while everyone is still on good terms, you can save a lot of time, headaches, and legal fees in the future.