Can I Get an “Amen” Agreement in Child Custody?
Do you know what the word “amen” actually means? Merriam-Webster calls it “solemn ratification” and “hearty approval,” and it translates literally to “I agree.” Is that how you feel about your Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support order?
If not, you may have reached a settlement, but we wouldn’t call it an Agreement. It’s that simple. It’s something you settled for.
We’ve got no problem with our dear friends and colleagues reaching settlements in their personal injury cases. They’re dealing with dollars and cents over a single incident that either did or didn’t happen a certain way. Do you really want to “settle” when it comes to your living, breathing, growing, learning and loving kids? I didn’t think so.
Why Parents and Relatives “Settle” Cases…
There are several reasons why folks might settle a case even though they know in their heart it’s not something they Agree with. The first one I’ll mention is the one we see the most and the one we have to be the most cautious about:
People just want to be done.
Child Custody litigation is not fun for anyone. You think you’ll feel better when it’s over, whatever the resolution of the case is. You’re wrong. You’re being selfish. You’re being short-sighted. You think if this isn’t working 6 months from now you can stroll back into our office and we can undo everything you just settled for. That’s not the law. Would the person you’re going to be 6 months from now sign this thing? This isn’t the essay you were writing in grade school when it was 2:00 a.m. and you thought you’d written something good enough to get a B so you called it a night. This is your life, your child’s, and here’s the most fundamental thing: the only thing that’s “done” is the active case. You could ask our clients, easily less than half of the Child Custody issues they deal with are directly related to litigation. If someone is controlling, manipulative or abusive that doesn’t stop when the final order gets signed.
You don’t “want to put the kids through this.”
What do you mean, like literally? What are you putting the kids through? Why do the kids know anything about the litigation besides “we all love you and we’re working together to figure out what’s best for you. Make sense?” if that. This is something folks outside the litigation and family say when they’ve got no idea what’s going on. It just sounds right. It’s coach-speak. It’s a freaking sound byte. It’s something the Other Side will say to play on your emotions or self-worth when you are standing up for what you believe in. It’s gas lighting. But, if you really are talking about the litigation with your child, stop. That’s dumb. If the other side is doing so then that’s something to bring up to the Court. “Not wanting to put the kids through this” is something really easy to say but it either means nothing or it means there are bigger problems that really do need to be addressed. It is not the reason to settle a case.
You ran out of money for your lawyer.
Once again, this is a symptom of a bigger problem. Folks really do deal with it, though. The first option is to beg and borrow, without stealing, to make sure you and your family have the guidance and advocacy they need. The second option is to represent yourself, what’s called proceeding pro se, which you have every legal right to do. We won’t say that there would never be a time when reaching a resolution, even a crappy one, won’t protect your child from something worse, but it’s still a crappy reason to settle a case, and we wouldn’t call that an Agreement.
What does an “Amen” Agreement Look Like…?
It’s more like peace than victory.
It is so very unlikely that you are going to feel like you “won” at the end of Child Custody litigation. The best you can reasonably hope for is peace, knowing in your heart you stood up for what you believed in and did everything you could. Does the Agreement capture what you consider to be your priorities for your child? Even if you had to compromise on some of the bells and whistles? Are you gonna kick yourself 6 months from now about the Other Side getting an extra week during the summer or is that worth being able to make the final decisions regarding health care?
It may not exist…and that’s perfectly okay despite what everyone else is saying.
That’s why Judges have jobs. Everyone else, with the exception of your Child Custody lawyer, (we hope but not always), will have their own reasons for wanting the case to be resolved without a trial. You have a fundamental and sacred right to believe what’s right for your child, even if you’re the only one that feels that way (and that does include your Child Custody lawyer, who works for you). You get to stand up in Court and proclaim what you want for your child and why you want it. You get to leave it all on the field and take whatever comes and be resilient and make the absolute best of it. You get to show the Other Side, the Judge the GAL and whoever else cares to know exactly what you’re made of and what you’re willing to do for your family.
And all God’s people said…
This article contains general information and should not be construed as legal advice for you and or your unique situation. If you would like to speak more about how you, as a Committed Parent or Caring Relative, can be more effective in your Child Custody case, please visit www.ThinkFoxtrot.com/public_calendars/ to schedule your initial consultation at one of our offices. ~SW, Foxtrot