“We Will Work It Out Later” – When Vague Agreements Go Sour

The end of a marriage or relationship is never pleasant, and is often stressful and emotionally difficult for all involved.  In the vast majority of cases, parties will be able to reach an agreement on some or even all the issues.  Settling before a court hearing has many important benefits, including a lower attorney bill, faster resolution than having to wait for a court hearing, and the parties can craft an agreement that is tailor-made for their needs.  Parties are often eager to complete an agreement, and in some cases will leave certain provisions vague, thinking they can work the details out at a later time.  When the parties later disagree about how the issue is to be resolved, this presents special challenges.

Typically when parties have a dispute after an order has been entered, they will need to look at the provisions of their court order to determine how the issue is to be handled.  When the order is vague, however, this will not be of much use.  If the parties cannot agree the meaning behind a certain provision, it may be necessary to return to court.  When returning to court, the parties may simply ask the court to clarify the meaning behind the vague provision.  In this situation, the parties are not asking for the order to be modified, only that the court give guidance as to how the provision is to be interpreted.

Another option is for the parties to return to court and ask that the last order be modified.  This strategy is most useful where the provision has turned out to be unworkable for reasons other than just the vague nature of the provision.  For example, if the parenting order states that the parties will meet to exchange the child after school at a location agreed upon by the parties, this can present several issues.  Agreeing to exchange the child “after school” provides no guidance to how long after school or what to do when the child is on a break from school.  In addition, one or both parties may have moved since the agreement was entered, and the parties may not have an agreement about what is now a fair and appropriate place to meet for the exchange.  In this scenario, it may be advisable to return to court and ask the court to change the order to provide for a specific time and place that the child will be exchanged.

We have extensive experience assisting our clients craft a parenting order that will meet their needs and those of their children.  Call us today at (651) 371-9117 and let us help you.