Divorce Decrees: How “Creative” Should They Be?

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 by Marc Beyer and is filed under Divorce,  Divorce Decree,  Spousal Maintenance.

In some ways, going through the divorce process can be like closing on a home. Many different forms and documents are prepared that you are asked to sign. It can be overwhelming.

But, as I tell my clients, the most important document in the end is a document called the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree. Or, stated more simply, the J&D, or just “the Decree.” This is the document that contains all the terms of your divorce that will govern you going forward. In effect, all the other documents prepared during the divorce lead up to this document and are replaced by it as you move into your divorced life.

So, it is important that the Decree is well-drafted. If you have disputes with your ex-spouse down the road, the Decree will likely contain language that will assist you in resolving those disputes. Sometimes, though, the Decree can go overboard with attempted creativity, which only serves to make matters worse.

This usually happens when the parties and their lawyers are sitting at the bargaining table attempting to reach a settlement. In order to get the deal done, some very detailed and creative terms can be proposed. In concept, the terms might not be objectionable, but in practice, they may be difficult to enforce and monitor down the road.

For example, Husband may agree to pay Wife an amount of spousal maintenance, but only for so long as she is not cohabiting with another person. Such an agreement might make sense (and is consistent with the law), but it can be difficult to enforce. Is Wife obligated to inform Husband when she starts to cohabitate? How is cohabitation defined? If she stops cohabitating, does the spousal maintenance resume?

Another example I have seen is a requirement which requires parties to prorate certain expenses for the children based upon their income at the time the expense is occurred. Again, this might seem fair while you are sitting at the bargaining table and anxious to resolve a divorce, but such a provision can be difficult to enforce and follow in practice.

If you have children, whether you like it or not, you will have to communicate and co-parent with your spouse after the divorce. But aside from that, as a general rule, it is best to avoid ongoing and unnecessary communication with your spouse post-divorce. The more that a Decree requires you to constantly communicate and exchange information with your spouse post-divorce, the more potential for conflict.

Before you agree to include a certain term in your divorce decree, try to imagine how that will play out in practice, and ask yourself if there is a better way. While not always possible, ideally a Decree is self-executing and does not require constant contact with your ex-spouse in order to comply with its terms.

Meet Marc Beyer

Interested in reading more?


Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota

If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.