Even in amicable divorces, informal orders may not be wise

Couples who divorce amicably and through mediation often find it easier to navigate the legal process. They can get through difficult negotiations a little faster and be more satisfied with the results. They can also shield their children from a painful, lengthy litigation process.

However, it is important to understand that while mediation is a less formal means of divorcing, it still results in legally sound solutions.

Informal process vs. informal agreements

Mediation is a legally informal process in that it doesn’t involve courtrooms or a judge. It involves two parties negotiating agreements to reach solutions together and with the help of a neutral mediator.

The agreements reached in mediation are not informal; they are legally binding and enforceable.

This is different from informal agreements parties might reach on their own without legal representation, which are not binding and often are not enforceable.

Why informal agreements may not work

Having an informal agreement is not a replacement for mediation or litigation. For instance, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly have in place an informal agreement for child support. Now the two are battling over what that agreement actually meant and whether Pitt has been fulfilling his obligations.

According to reports, Jolie argues that Pitt has failed to pay “meaningful child support.” Pitt argues that he has contributed over $9 million to support Jolie and their six children. Of course, we can’t know for sure who — if anyone — is telling the truth and whether there are misrepresentations involved.

What we do know is that an informal agreement can leave room for interpretation and misunderstandings. It can also be very difficult to enforce, which means there are no guarantees for if and how to administer penalties for violations.

Securing a court order to avoid disputes

While informal agreements may seem easier and less expensive, the potential consequences when disputes arise can mean that the agreement causes more problems than it might solve. You can avoid these problems by securing court orders for child support or child custody. Even if they are only temporary, these orders can provide the specificity and authority informal agreements often lack.