Keeping Your Divorce Agreement


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I’ve been forced by the circumstances of several friends to rethink my position on the subject of using external authority to bring about the fair and equitable enforcement of a post-marriage agreement involving the visitation rights of a non-custodial parent with his or her children. I’m including these thoughts in a new version of our book, “Working Through The Crisis”. I wanted to share them here as well. Sometimes this blog will be more practical in nature, this is one of those times…
A family break-up is often preceded by a period of fighting, name-calling, rivalry and conflict… I truly don’t believe that divorce is ever God’s best answer to marital conflict; but once the decision to divorce is irrevocably made by either one of you; I believe the two of you should begin the process of ending the conflict between you. I truly believe that is the mature thing to do…

In saying that; I don’t mean you should simply allow your estranged spouse to take advantage of your grief, to allow him or her to dictate terms of settlement to you, or to allow anyone to intimidate you in any way. Your level of confidence in the God you serve is bigger than all of that. But your children will re-establish their sense of security and hope for the future, based mostly upon your actions in the present. Continuing to simply fight with your former spouse indefinitely after your separation and divorce might cause your children to begin to lose respect and hope; so you will need to handle your grief and bitterness wisely; and you will need to communicate with your children in love, grace and confidence, over this entire situation…

I believe you truly can maintain a level of confidence, as you “Take the high road” and find a way to bring the war between you and your children’s co-parent under control; and you really should try to maintain peace with your former spouse if that is at all possible; because:
“He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind”. Proverbs 11:29. But this is a battle, so we need to add… “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence; and His children will have a place of refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Creating an agreement you can live with.
We’ve said it’s usually better to take the high road with your former spouse; rather than to become locked in a long-term season of “Mortal Combat” with him or her over legal issues which can often be resolved by applying a little bit of simple grace to the situation. We would never advise anyone to fight too long and hard over items of personal property. And we also would advise, in most cases; that you become settled with the reality that; most divorces involving children will usually end in an agreement which will include shared custody rights; shared visitation privileges; and a fair sum of child support to be paid to the custodial parent…

We know that “Fair” is a very subjective term; but we also know; you can mortgage your entire future in a court battle to vilify your former spouse and try to gain “Full custody” of your children; only to eventually be forced to compromise that privilege as your children become more mobile and independent; and they desire to have a relationship with his or her other parent. We want to apply grace when we can in crafting our divorce agreement, but this agreement will become a legally binding and enforceable document which will govern your rights and conduct over a very long period of time in your ongoing relationship with your children and your former spouse… We know some former spouses remain friends and work together to raise their children over the long term; and that is very admirable, indeed… But, for most of you, if you truly could have done that, you probably would have stayed together.

Not a truce; but a cease-fire agreement.
Most divorces will turn one household into two separate and divided entities; and like two countries which have been at war; the unresolved conflict and mistrust between these entities; often seems to lie right below the surface. While these entities must find a way to share a common border; we often find one entity continuing to take shots across the shared border; many years after a divorce is final. So the divorce decree you’ve created will, in many cases; become the cease-fire agreement between two separately-governed and sometimes combative households…

Although a couple might be determined to get along at the beginning of a separation; that amiability might change, as one or both individuals might take on a new spouse; or spiritually change his or her gracious outlook. That’s why a divorce agreement should spell out the ongoing days and times of visitation and the alternation of holidays, etc; into the future. And, much like a country might seek the help of an outside peacekeeping force to help it enforce the rules of a cease-fire agreement; you might, at some time, need to enlist the help of the police; to fairly enforce the visitation rules of your agreement.

Now, you wouldn’t use authority just to create a conflict; but if you have children; you were called by God to be a parent, and I don’t believe it is at all “Non-Christian” to use worldly authority if necessary to bring about fairness, in the face of true disrespect of your rights under a binding agreement… We must remember, when Paul was being brutalized in Acts 22: 25-29; he said, “You can’t do this, I’m a Roman citizen”… You have rights as a citizen as well. Now we know these thoughts won’t apply to everyone, and some of you simply will not agree; but, as always, we welcome your thoughts and comments…

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