Reconciliation Clauses in Separation Agreements
I got a good question at one of my Second Saturday seminars the other day. A woman asked, “What’s a reconciliation clause? Do I even want one? I don’t plan on reconciling!” She went on to say that a reconciliation clause wasn’t included when she and her husband met with a mediator, but then that the draft of her separation agreement from our office included one.
I was a little taken aback by her tone, to tell you the truth, because she sounded a little accusatory. Like we should have known she was never going to reconcile with her husband, and we should have left the provision out. Maybe it seems that way, on the surface, but, I can assure you, a reconciliation provision is put in your agreement for your protection.
What is a reconciliation clause?
A reconciliation clause is a pretty simple thing. It just states that, if you and your husband decide to get back together, and then subsequently separate again, your signed agreement will survive in full force and effect.
Why do I want a reconciliation clause if we aren’t going to reconcile?
Reconciliation clauses are great. You may not think so now (and you may be right, who even knows?), but you and your husband may reconcile. It happens all the time, even in cases where I think that surely, surely, the parties will not reconcile. Hey, who am I to judge? No one knows what happens in a marriage besides the two people in it, and sometimes the bonds that hold them together can be stronger than even they realized. To put it simply: reconciliations happen all the time. And maybe they should. Whether you ultimately stay together or wind up getting divorced later on down the line, most women want to know that they’ve given their marriage all they could. They want to know they tried everything, and only gave up when they became absolutely certain that it wasn’t going to work. They want to exhaust every option and remove every doubt from their minds. And, if you’ve got any lingering doubts (and even if you don’t), you should feel free to work on your marriage if the mood strikes. You shouldn’t be wondering, “Well, if we reconcile, what happens to my separation agreement?”
Without a reconciliation clause, if the two of you got back together, your separation agreement would basically dissolve. And then where would you be left? Well, if you stayed together forever and ever and lived happily ever after, you’d be fine. But, if you separated again later on down the line (not that I’m saying you would), you’d have to start the divorce process over from scratch. Whatever money you spent on your separation agreement would be wasted, and you’d have to start over from the beginning. You’d have to draft a new separation agreement, or file for divorce and go through the contested process.
Having a reconciliation clause saves you from spending that extra money the second time around. What else do reconciliation clauses do? Reconciliation clauses give you freedom. Whether you want to try to work on things or whether it’s completely over, you have the safety in knowing that your agreement is going to survive whatever might happen. For many people, having that agreement in place makes them want to work on their marriage. Knowing what they have to fall back on – support, the sale of the home, custody, whatever – makes them feel safer trying to work on their marriages. They know they have the agreement if it all doesn’t work out, and that can encourage them to work on things.
Sometimes, people even negotiate marital agreements. They’re like separation agreements (and prenuptial agreements, for that matter) except for when they come into play. A marital agreement is a document that couples use to try to save their marriages. They’ll agree to thinks like counseling or date nights in order to try to help improve things in their marriages. They’ll also then include the specific terms of their divorce, just like they would in a separation agreement. That way, they can focus on fixing the marriage, without having to worry about the divorce all the while. They know what they can rely on later on down the line, if things don’t work out, and sometimes that gives people the peace of mind to truly fix their marriages. A reconciliation clause can be key. We like to include them in our separation agreements for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned – it saves money, and promotes peace of mind. It allows our clients to feel like they can work on their marriages, if that’s something they want to do, without risking any kind of legal penalty for it. Reconciliation clauses are great, and they don’t hurt you to include if you never even attempt the teeniest tiniest reconciliation. They can always be included as an extra level of insurance. For more information, to have an agreement drafted, or to have your already drafted agreement reviewed by a licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.