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Agreeing to Agree

May 19, 2017  | 
Agreeing to Agree by Clare Piro

{4:00 minutes to read} I often caution clients against including language in their agreement which is basically just an agreement to agree: anything that begins with “The parties will agree upon...” or “The parties agree to review...” But it depends on the issue and on the couple.

Sometimes it makes sense not to spend an enormous amount of time either on something that is not all that contentious or something not likely to happen. Other times, though, leaving big decisions for the future is just putting off an inevitable conflict that should be addressed now.

Here are some examples of terms that may or may not need to be spelled out completely, depending on the term and the couple.

Hours of Access and Holiday Sharing

There are couples who are capable of having a parenting plan that leaves the hours for access on a particular day or the holiday schedule as “agreed upon.” Others clearly need to have exact hours for pick-up and drop-off as well as a detailed holiday plan to avoid future conflict.

Process for the Sale of a House

When discussing terms for the sale of a jointly owned home, I’ll ask the couple if they believe that they can agree upon a broker, a listing price, reductions to the prices, an accepted offer, etc. It’s obvious that some will have no problem with “as agreed upon,” and equally obvious when the agreement needs to be detailed as to who the broker will be, how reductions will be made, and what offers must be accepted.

College

I recently had a client who told me that his lawyer said that NYS law doesn’t mandate that a parent has to pay for college, so it didn’t have to be in the agreement. I’ll leave the law part for another post, but suffice to say that it’s complicated.
I caution clients against agreeing to agree when it comes to college. I want them to avoid having to go to Court to compel a college payment. If it is, for whatever reason, something that the parties can’t decide at this point, we talk about what they will consider financially relevant at the time a child will enter college. We then discuss whether or not they want the other to be obligated to pay something towards college and/or whether or not the child should contribute. The agreement will then provide a process to be followed.
 

Future Income Tax Filings

If the parties expect to be married at the end of the year, we’ll discuss whether or not they will file a joint income tax return. Some couples can easily make that determination at the time of filing, but others may need to have a more detailed process for how that determination will be made.

No one can definitively predict what future circumstances will bring or what level of conflict will arise, but I do trust that the couple, especially those who choose to mediate, are capable of determining in what areas they anticipate conflict and in what areas they will be able to agree. Their agreement can then reflect that.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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