Divorcing doesn’t always involve animosity, distrust or anger. There are people who part ways amicably and with respect and compassion for each other. While this can make the legal process of ending the relationship easier, it can also create a false sense of security when it comes to the agreements parties reach during a divorce.

For instance, if you are a parent going through an amicable divorce, you might think that reaching informal agreements with your former partner without representation or court orders can allow you to avoid messy legal issues. However, this may not be true.

Over time, things can change

Consider a scenario where two parents are splitting up. They decide on their own that the father will pay $200 a month in child support. The agreement works for several months.

However, a month comes up where the father misses a payment. The following month he is short, but says he’ll make up for it by taking care of the expenses for the child’s new soccer equipment. Over time, payments become inconsistent and irregular.

On top of this, the mother starts dating someone who tells her that $200 a month is not a fair amount; the father should be paying more. She gets upset, demands more money from the father and the two wind up arguing in court.

In this scenario, an informal agreement may offer no clarity or guidance. There may be no way to determine what the terms of the initial agreement were or what was supposed to happen if someone failed to meet the terms.

Securing a court order 

If the same parties had secured a court order instead of their informal agreement, the outcome would be different. First, it would ensure the payments were fair to begin with. Second, it would solidify the terms and expectations in a legally binding agreement. Third, it would make it easier for the courts to enforce the order in the event of nonpayment.

With all this in mind, we urge parents who are considering informal agreements for child custody or support to think seriously about the potential drawbacks of these. If circumstances change or if parties get into a fight, that informal agreement may not offer the guidance or protection that a court order does.