Largely because of children, after a judgment of dissolution of marriage is entered, there are often numerous aspects of the relationship that continue or remain to be concluded. While the divorce decree, including the Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Agreement, should anticipate as many of these future situations as possible, resolving them before the judgment enters is almost always the best course.
The Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Agreement should not only anticipate situations and problems that will arise in parenting the couple’s children, such as healthcare, child support, education, extracurricular activities, visitation, and college education, but resolve as many as possible. It is usually easier to reach a resolution as to many of those issues before the judgment enters, rather than defer decisions until problems arise. Certainty as to the parenting relationship also avoids problems. Additionally, the decree should have a mechanism for dispute resolution, such as third party mediation, before the parties return to court.
While other issues can linger beyond the judgment, they should be avoided or limited. Judgments that leave division of pensions, sale of real estate, transfer of vehicles, allocation of debts and other matters open are asking for trouble. Entrance of the judgment should be like a real estate closing, with all matters between the parties concluded. Leaving matters to be worked out by the divorced spouses is rarely a good idea, since third parties become involved and these post-decree resolutions often taint the continuing parenting relationship. If matters must be left open, there should be an agreed method on how to resolve them and at who’s cost, since the cost to resolve these “open” matters may rival the cost of your divorce. While you rely on your lawyer, accountant and other professionals to advise you regarding ending your marriage, you should insist on finality and certainty wherever possible.
At Brooks, Tarulis & Tibble, LLC we take a broad approach to marriage dissolution, seeking to conclude all matters before entrance of the decree, and doing so in such a way as not to cause problems regarding children or other continuing relationships. If we can assist you, please contact me.
Douglas C Tibble