A little-known topic in the field of divorce law is the pre-determination of issues that a couple will need to deal with in the future. Many of these issues pertain to custody and child support for couples with very young children. For example, parents with a toddler may decide to pre-arrange custody arrangements that will take effect once the child enters preschool or kindergarten. Another increasingly common issue is how to pay for post- secondary education expenses such as college or vocational training.
It may be sensible to negotiate terms for college expenses ahead of time, since most jobs today do require some level of post-secondary education. Furthermore, it spares the child from having to file suit against the parent for additional support. On the other hand, pre-determining every facet of you and your children's lives is virtually impossible considering all the changes that may occur over the years. Some spouses are driven to ask for pre-arranged terms out of fear that they, or their children will be cheated out of certain things in the future. There are also spouses who genuinely hate each other, and thus try to cover every possible scenario in order to avoid having to deal with each after the divorce.
However, attempting to set divorce terms in stone can lead to feelings of regret when life doesn't work out quite as you planned. That alimony settlement looks reasonable now, but what if you becomes disabled or laid off in the future? If so, you may live to regret signing off on an irrevocable alimony award. The same can be said for agreeing to a permanent set of parenting hours at specific stages in your child's life. While it sounds good in theory, our children's wants and needs are not always predictable. They may prefer your spouse over you at the age of 2, but by the age of 10, they may share more interests and commonalities with you. If so, you may wish to have your child over for longer periods of time, but that won't be easy when you've signed off on a pre-determined agreement. Unless your spouse agrees to change the parenting plan, you will have no choice but to appeal to the courts. You should know, however, that the courts generally will not intervene unless you can show a compelling change in circumstances in either you or your child's life.
Although there are core issues that should be addressed in every divorce agreement, many issues are particular to each family's unique circumstances. If you are in the process of working out a divorce agreement, please consider speaking with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. While it is possible to modify an existing agreement, doing so requires the consent of both parties, or filing a motion with the courts. Our attorneys will advise you of the all the possible terms that you may wish to address, thereby greatly reducing your chances of future litigation.