Uncontested divorce typically means the spouses agreed to the issues in the divorce rather than have the court decide how to divide property and how to address child issues–custody and child support. In the uncontested divorce the spouses have made decisions about the co-parenting relationship after the divorce. It can be easy in an uncontested divorce to just agree to whatever custodial arrangement or possession schedule both spouses can agree to accept. That agreement may not be best for the children.
1. Did we make these decisions with my children in mind?
Right out of the gate you should think about whether both of you focused on your children in making custody and child support decisions. If you know the kids were not a priority in the conversation then you know the kids probably were not a priority in how each of you considered the terms of the agreement.
2. What were the priorities that led to the agreement and were they right for your children?
What was important to you and your spouse? Convenience for the spouses or the children? Do your children benefit from that decision or do you? The more priorities you can list that are about your children the more likely your kids were a priority.
3. What will change in my kids’ lives in this agreement?
Of course divorce is going to result in some major changes for your children. At a minimum their parents will no longer be married and living together (usually). Think about how the divorce will affect their extracurricular activities, their free time, their academic responsibilities and the burdens they suffer by the division of time.
4. What kind of relationship will each of us have with the children after the divorce?
The relationships between the children and each parent will change in the divorce, at a minimum just because each parent will be a single parent in their respective homes. The children will see each parent less and that will make changes as well. Beyond these basics there may be other changes that occur in the relationships due to the particular possession schedule elected and how each parent will be involved in the kids’ lives under your agreement. If the agreement is going to hurt your relationship with your kids then you should think carefully about whether that agreement is right for your children.
5. How will the agreement work as the children get older?
Inevitably the relationship between children and parents change as the kids grow up–especially in teenage years. Will the agreement still make sense when the kids are more involved in school or working part-time summer jobs? You should think about the shelf-life of this agreement and what you will do as life changes require modifying the agreement.
6. How will the agreement work as each of us starts dating?
Eventually each of you will move on and look for love in other places. Will you have free time in the schedule? Will the agreement work when either or both of you gets into a relationship with somebody else? Are there workable rules dictating what can or cannot happen around the children?
7. Are any unique or special needs taken into consideration?
You may have kids with particular needs that require special attention. Did you two adequately consider these issues? If not then these are surefire reasons the agreement may prove unworkable down the road.
8. How will the children respond to the custody agreement?
Your kids do not need to have veto power over your lives but their desires are not irrelevant. If they feel ignored then it is likely they will resist the changes. That in turn can make an otherwise good agreement falter.
9. How will the children be provided for financially?
The children will continue to have same financial needs after the divorce they had before. Figuring out how to support the children is an important part of a workable custody agreement. Sometimes people find an agreement without child support results in financial insecurity for the children. Child support below the guidelines is appropriate typically when right for the children.
10. If the agreement doesn’t work, what will we do?
Sometimes a good agreement just doesn’t work for various reasons. You should prepare for how you will deal with problems as they arise. Also, what steps you will take to modify the custody agreement if it is not creating a healthy environment.
Is it time to hire a divorce attorney for my uncontested divorce?
The goal in any uncontested divorce is to find an agreement that the parties can support that fairly deals with all issues. If after considering these questions you do not feel the agreement you reached is best for your children then it’s time to go back to the table. Also, if you can’t reach an agreement then it’s probably time to hire a divorce attorney to protect your rights and protect the interests of your children. If you can reach an agreement then it’s also a good time to bring in an attorney to draft language to clearly define the terms of your agreement to make sure you have a strong and enforceable agreement to start your post-divorce parenting on the right foot.