Don’t leave it all to trust in divorce, get it in writing!
How many divorced or divorcing people have mentioned to me things like “oh, I don’t have to worry about getting a lawyer involved with that and making it complicated- I can trust him!”? Lots.
Do you want some free divorce advice? Here it is: get it in writing! I’m dead serious! This is the moment when I, the person who’s “been there” can look back at myself in the past or a person just beginning the process and confidently state that not getting all those gray areas and questionable things in writing now is asking for trouble later!
I don’t blame anyone who has ever had the thought that it’s not necessary for whatever million possible reasons. Quite honestly, it’s still refreshing and beautiful that people still have faith and trust in a soon to be ex or the system! Don’t we all want to think we’re above the pettiness and slime of an ugly divorce? Don’t we all hope that we can escape the scars of the horror stories we’ve all heard?
Well, those horror stories stand as a reminder of the ugliest of possibilities. No, we won’t all be a part of one of those divorce nightmares that last several years and cost a king’s ransom; but, we will all be served at least a dose of ugliness that we would rather avoid. Some of us see the dark underbelly of who our former spouse really is while still married, while others may not learn how terrible things can get until we’re deep in the mud of legal proceedings or even awhile into the future.
I have heard so many divorcing people, myself included, remark that they and their ex can work out all the small details and nothing needs to be written in stone. I wholeheartedly encourage a divorcing couple to discuss and settle on their own solutions because it can save both time and money in the divorce process, and the decisions made will be their own instead of whatever the court imposes on them. That’s a win-win for everyone!
Where the DIY approach falls short of serving everyone well in the future is when we talk, trust, and hope for the best, but we don’t commit those decisions to an official plan!
Think about it:
Things change! You may agree or see eye-to-eye right now, but what will either of you think after someone else gets to one of you and changes your mind (parents and new romantic partners are excellent at this!), after circumstances change and make the decision no longer so mutually beneficial, or some more conflict erupts during and after the divorce?
People move, change jobs, get involved with new people, and fall in and out of favor every day! The chances of a handshake agreement holding water months or even years down the road is unlikely. Time has a way of altering our memories, so who’s to say how each of us might perceive the events of a past conversation in the future?
Good luck collecting on words! Plenty of divorced people will share that they have enough difficulty collecting on promises ordered by a judge, so what makes you think that words exchanged with someone you’re divorcing will hold up?
Andrea, a divorced mom of two teens could kick herself now for never officially seeking child support for her kids or getting any other agreement about her ex’s involvement in helping to pay for child-related expenses. She thought that, as their dad, he would be invested enough in their needs that she wouldn’t have to force him to help take care of his own kids! Three years later, and she is still begging for help with school supplies, glasses, and medical bills. She is planning to go back to court; but, think of the time and agony that has been wasted because they left their co-parenting matters to verbal agreements rather than adding them to their legal parenting plan!
Prepare to argue! When things are left up to chance, rather than thoroughly reviewed and signed off on, there will always be room left for conflict and each person’s interpretation. Kristin, the mom of a three-year-old, regrets not having more discussion about holidays and some of the gray areas in their schedule. She assumed they could work out visitation on a case-by-case basis. Now, her ex has a girlfriend and a new baby, and he is not nearly as flexible or communicative as he used to be. She finds herself frustrated by loose language in their court orders and the constant battles over what each parent wants.
Let’s get real…this is now your ex! We can hope that our ex will continue to have the best interest of their children beyond the divorce, but what makes you think they will necessarily care about what’s best for you? Some exes remain good friends and can be counted on to be kind and caring to one another in the future; but, this is not the case for many of us! Your ex will develop new priorities and relationships, and most exes do not continue on friendly terms after the marriage ends.
We can’t always predict which issues today will become tomorrow’s landmines; however, we can avoid many fights and frustrations by erring on the safe side. Getting everything in writing may initially come across as unfriendly or too hardcore; but, it really serves to protect everyone’s interests.
I know that when I was divorcing, I lived in fear of instigating conflict or making my ex-husband mad because I didn’t want him to come after me in a way that would cause me harm in the divorce. I tiptoed around big issues and tried to play nice because I just wanted it to be over and with the least amount of drama possible.
I’m not alone in this. I hear many others express that they’re afraid to have certain difficult conversations or they don’t want to up the ante by involving child support or lawyers to solidify aspects of the divorce. Yes, you may really ignite some anger in your ex if you force them to formally commit to something; however, I would bet that their resistance is a sign of their actual disagreement over an issue, and there’s a good chance that this is an issue they intend to bail on as soon as they’re in the clear!
Trust me, a tantrum today is worth securing your future. If you feel that an issue is important, then you have a right to discuss it and try to reach an agreement. If an ex is worth their word over a handshake, then signing their name to that agreement won’t be a problem! We simply can’t take for granted that the person we think we know today will fulfill their promises tomorrow!