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Do You Write Chatty or Formal Agreements?

By Joryn Jenkins

If you’re a lawyer, you probably tend to write more formal marital settlement agreements and parenting plans, especially if you’ve created templates for those documents. But other professionals may choose to draft more informal agreements that mimic the chatty way that people actually communicate. There are advantages and disadvantages to each style.

As an attorney, I generally prefer formally written agreements. I’ve seen too many times when post-judgment litigation has been necessitated by an agreement that was informal and therefore unclear and confusing. A well-crafted agreement should not be open to interpretation. It should clearly state the parties’ agreement in an unambiguous way.

Court-approved language is also beneficial to avoid confusion.

Over my many years of representing divorce clients, I have drafted language for many different scenarios. Nowadays, and because I have much of the language already prepared, I prefer to include as many terms as possible so that the parties have a pre-packaged solution for whatever problem might arise in the future.

Sometimes “Chatty” Agreements Can Work

That said, there are some advantages to more “chatty” agreements. They can be easier and less intimidating for the clients to understand. And clients who have a good understanding of their agreement are less likely to transgress its terms.

Further, for parties who have a hard time agreeing to anything, a less inclusive, more informal agreement may be more achievable than the most beautifully written formal agreement. While, ideally, we want the best, most inclusive agreement for every divorcing couple, for some, the reality is that we would never be able to get them to agree to something so rigid, and a less formal agreement is more suitable.

Whether you prefer to draft chatty or formal agreements, be sure to focus on removing all ambiguity from your writing. That will lessen the risk of post-judgment litigation.

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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