Sometimes family law related matters go on for a very, very long time. The amount of emotional and financial stress that parties are under during a pending family law matter can be very large as well. Sometimes the length of time as well as financial and emotional pressure can cloud parties’ judgment and cause them to enter into agreements which are not truly in their best interests, but will get the job done, at least temporarily. One of the pitfalls I see most often in Judgments where parties entered into it simply because they were worn out is the “let’s agree to agree later” pitfall, and the short term benefits do not outweigh the long term problems that it causes.
For example, parties who do not have regular 9-5 jobs don’t always know when they will be able to exercise their parenting time. Their schedule changes week to week. A situation such as this is a tempting one for parties to enter into an order that says something like “the parties agree Mom shall have parenting time with the minor children not less than one (1) weekend per month and twice a week for dinner from 4-7 p.m. Mom will notify Dad 14 days in advance of which days she intends to exercise her parenting time.” This sounds like a perfectly reasonable order. However, things arise that are not predictable, and an order written in this way, when violated, is difficult to try and enforce. For example, if this order was brought by Mom to a police station because Dad was refusing to give her time, the police likely would decline to enforce it, because it isn’t clear enough. That means that Mom will lose her parenting time and will have to file a petition in Court for contempt and/or for make-up parenting time, if Dad was truly in the wrong. The whole point of the Judgment is not to have to return to Court. Parties need to be better about what they agree to. Agreeing to agree on days of the week for parenting time at a later date doesn’t help either party if they end up back in Court over this issue. It is best to be as clear and concise as possible, to have an end result which is workable for the parties, and enforceable without return court house visits.