Divorce Agreements: Choose Your Wording Carefully!

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Divorce Agreements: Choose Your Wording Carefully!

Divorce Agreements: Choose Your Wording Carefully! by Deborah Kaminetzky

Many clients ask why divorce agreements are so long and whether the exact wording really matters that much. The length is due to the fact that there are so many different issues that need to be covered. Issues such as Maintenance, Child Support, Custody & Parenting Time, and Equitable Distribution are just some of the areas that need to be covered in an agreement. I have seen some agreements that left out major issues, such as who is paying for college, which leaves both parties, not to mention the children, in a precarious position.

Each section should lay out the agreement between the parties as clearly as possible so that both understand what is expected of them going forward. One word can make a huge difference!

As an example, let’s say two parents agree that they will “confer” before making a decision on their children’s extracurricular activities. This is different from saying that they must “agree” in that conferring only means discuss, not agree. So if they don’t agree on the activities, where are they? Normally when I draft an agreement where the parties agree to confer, I like to insert a person or type of person they can go to for a tie breaker, such as the child’s guidance school counselor or their Pastor, Rabbi or other faith-based leader. This way they do not need to go back to court to get a decision.

Likewise, the words’ “shall” and “may” are not interchangeable. As an example, should the clients agree to consult a bankruptcy attorney, the words “shall consult” make a big difference. If one party does not consult and the other files bankruptcy after consulting a bankruptcy attorney, the repercussions can be tremendous.

Even words as seemingly clear as “biweekly” can be problematic. Biweekly can mean twice a week, or every two weeks. Which one did the parties agree to? A better way to draft the agreement if they meant one parent gets to have the children twice a week for dinner during the workweek is to spell it out just like that, leaving no confusion.

Believe it or not, whether the agreement is mediated or the result of intense negotiations and court time, your goal should be to have your attorney or mediator draft a rulebook by which you and your former spouse can live in the future with as few gray areas as possible. This should keep “post judgment litigation” to a minimum as everyone understands the plain meaning of the agreement.

This actually takes some writing ability and much discussion. Take the time to review and understand your agreement, and ask your lawyer to explain clauses you don’t understand. Only then can you sign with confidence!

Deborah E. Kaminetzky

 

Deborah E. Kaminetzky, Esq.
Kaminetzky Law & Mediation, P.C.
132 Spruce Street
Cedarhurst, New York 11516
Phone: 516.374.0074

By | 2018-01-05T13:08:10+00:00 March 9th, 2017|Divorce Law, Mediation|Comments Off on Divorce Agreements: Choose Your Wording Carefully!

About the Author:

Deborah E. Kaminetzky is the founding member of Kaminetzky Law & Mediation, P.C. located in Cedarhurst and Garden City, New York. Prior to starting the firm Deborah worked at a Long Island firm where she learned the practice of Matrimonial and Family law and Estate Planning. Deborah has also worked at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs where she was responsible for prosecuting unlicensed home improvement contractors and negotiating settlements for consumers. Prior to practicing law, Ms. Kaminetzky was the president of a commercial property management corporation in the New York Metro area. Ms. Kaminetzky is a member of the American Bar Association (General Practice, Solo and Small firm Division and Law Practice Management Sections), National Association of Divorce Professionals, New York State Council on Divorce Mediation, Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York, New York State Bar Association (Business Law, Estate, Family Law, ADR and General Practice Sections), Nassau County Bar Association (where she serves as Vice Chair of the General, Solo and Practice Management Committee, and is active in the Community Relations and Education Committee) and The Nassau County Women’s Bar Association. Ms. Kaminetzky was appointed to the Committee on Law Practice Management of the New York State Bar Association in 2015 and has been a frequent speaker and author of articles for their journal. Ms. Kaminetzky serves on the Board of Directors of the Yashar Attorney and Judges Chapter of Hadassah as a their Treasurer, and was their Woman of the Year 2012. Deborah graduated from New York Law School in 1991 and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1986. Ms. Kaminetzky was admitted to the First Department in 1991 and the United States Supreme Court Bar in February of 2015. Deborah is on the Matrimonial fee dispute arbitration panel for Nassau County. She expanded her alternative dispute resolution practice by completing a Mediation certificate program in December of 2013, an advanced Mediation certificate program in 2015 and most recently a Divorce Mediation certificate in early 2016 from The New York Peace Institute. Ms. Kaminetzky has spoken to various groups on topics including matrimonial law, technology and social media use, and disaster preparedness for business including cybersecurity.