The Problem with (some) Amicable Divorces

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I’m a wife, stepmom x3 and mom x 1 who when I couldn’t find the stepmom support I was looking for, decided to create it myself. I love mac + cheese, distressed denim, sauvignon blanc and all things Dateline. 

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An amicable divorce is always the goal.  It’s when a married couple can go their separate ways, while acting respectfully and logically – all in the best interest of the kids.

Amicable divorces ARE a good thing.

The problem is, couples who split amicably often do it themselves. They don’t seek legal advice, they don’t get legal documentation, they don’t create a co-parenting plan that outlines how the co-parenting relationship will work. They commit to figuring it out as they go.

This works REALLY well, until it doesn’t anymore.

Specifically, it works well until…

  • One parent enters a new relationship.
  • One parent suggests something for the holiday schedule that the other disagrees with.
  • One parent wants to make a decision that changes the kids’ lives, and the other strongly disagrees.
  • One parent wants a more structured agreement.
  • Holidays come and the parent in the new relationship isn’t so keen on the joint celebrations anymore.
  • Birthdays happen.
  • Conflict occurs.
  • Etc…

Then all of a sudden, figuring things out as you go leads to extreme conflict, heated discussions, and being stuck at a standstill.

I’ve seen this SO many times.

A woman starts dating a man with kids, they attempt to start their lives together and his agreement with his EX is a complete mess.

  • No predictability
  • No systems
  • Unnecessary conflicts over miniscule tasks
  • Pissing matches and turf wars
  • Hurt feelings

The list goes on. Not having a concrete legal agreement is a recipe for a co-parenting disaster.

Let me say that again… 
NOT HAVING A CONCRETE LEGAL AGREEMENT IS A RECIPE FOR A CO-PARENTING DISASTER.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t sit down like grown ass adults and go through your liabilities and assets and come up with a plan together.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t divide up tasks and create a co-parenting plan without exorbitant lawyers bills. You absolutely can.

But then, you should BOTH seek legal advice, to make sure that you’re not leaving anything out.

You need a detailed agreement about how everything will work – down to the very last details.

  • What does the holiday schedule look like?
  • Where will pick up and drop off take place? What time? Who drops off who?
  • Sports and extracurricular activities.
  • Who is responsible for what (appointments, shopping, signing up for extracurriculars)
  • How will you handle birthdays?
  • How will you pay child support?
  • How will you divide up extra expenses for the kids?
  • Who will do the hot lunch form?

The list goes on… I could literally write about 100 different thing that should be decided ahead of time.

Then, you simply add a little disclaimer at the bottom of the agreement that says “unless mutually agreed upon.”

This allows for flexibility so you can keep that “figure it out as you go” co-parenting style

— but NOW you have something to fall back on in the event that this approach backfires

— NOW you have a plan in place for WHEN disagreements arise.

You’ll notice I said WHEN. It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen.

This is just being smart.

__

Stepmoms often reach out to tell me that their partner is going back to court. They ask what I think they should include in their new agreement.

While I do not provide legal advice, here’s what I tell them as a friend.

E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!

Think back to anything and everything that has caused an issue over the last however many years and then plan to prevent it from happening again.

Create a system to avoid conflict and confusion.

Be smart.
Protect yourself.
While amicable is amazing and always the goal – you never know what will happen down the road.

Just like you would never enter into a business relationship without an iron clad agreement – you should never enter a co-parenting relationship without something written out as well.

Seriously.

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