…um, not really. Although justice on TV, or in the movies, can be gritty, we still think that somehow the truth will out and the good guys will win. In real life, it’s actually more like the good guys will sorta win. Usually.
It has been said that a contract is nothing more than an agreement to agree. I agree!
I encourage everyone to write down agreements, mostly because humans have this tendency to reframe and restructure their memories and agreements. If we write down what we agreed upon, the odds are much more likely that we can agree in the future. Writing it down and agreeing to it in writing doesn’t actually mean people will stick to it. It just gives us all a better chance.
Think for the moment of judge shows on TV. I personally have a few that capture me as ‘guilty pleasures’. These shows guarantee one thing to the litigants that you may not have even considered. They guarantee that if you win, you’ll get paid, because the judgment is paid out of your stipend for doing the show. At least that’s what the disclaimer says. That’s a pretty good deal.
In real life that doesn’t happen. Let me give you a couple of real life examples:
· A client’s ex-husband is supposed to be paying support while the divorce trial is going on. Each time he has to be prodded and reminded. The money comes not on the first, as stipulated, but on the 15th, 22nd or some other random date. Now the divorce has been finalized and he is ordered to pay support every month for the next three years. So there was justice, right? But wait! If he wasn’t paying on time before, why would he do so now? She now gets the joy of having to chase the money each month for three years.
· A friend loaned his sister in-law money to help with attorney fees. There was an agreement in writing for pay back. One payment was made, then there was a 2 ½ year no payment zone. Then 6 months of small payments each month, then the no payment zone shows up again. The balance on the loan is still 2/3 of the original debt. How would getting a court judgment for payment induce this person to pay, when the agreement, and the relationship, don’t?
I can go on and on with these stories. We all have them, or know someone that has them. Sometimes there is a written agreement, sometimes there isn’t.
The thing I’m really wanting you to notice is that when an agreement about money goes bad, the resolution is never smooth or easy. Even if you are in the right and absolutely due the money, there will be a price to pay in time, energy, emotion, and maybe even money, to get your money back.
We are back to the contract being an agreement to agree. As long as we both agree, all is good. When we don’t, it gets messy. You can go to court and get a judgment and never collect a dime. You can go to court and get a judgment and have the money dribble in with each dribble precipitated by your having to call and press for the money. You can make agreements and have people just not keep them. The person who owes you can have a myriad of reasons for not paying, even if it’s a legitimate debt.
It can all be pretty messy. Nope, it’s not going to be like on the TV unless it is on the TV. So maybe the real trick here is to pick your favorite TV judge, and when you set up the agreement with the person, agree to have any hassles handled there on the show. But oh, wait a minute; that would mean an agreement was possible to begin with. Ah, the Catch 22 syndrome is still in play.
We can’t avoid all these money messes. But we can be aware of them and more thoughtful about the ones we do get into. Ironically it looks like the best way to go is with a TV judge. They’ve already collected the money, so if you win, you’ll actually get your money!