Have you ever thought of drawing up a written agreement between you and your partner for anything that could be legally related, but decided not to because “it’s not a real contract”? As one woman in Cook County found out, written agreements do in fact matter.

A woman in Cook County filed a lawsuit for child support for her twins. In most instances, this would be an easy fix. There is a father, and child support payments would be ordered. This is not the typical case. The man in this case wanted to be a sperm donor only, and in 2012 the parties signed an agreement as such which relinquished all of his parental rights and obligations. Again, not being the typical case, this couple also engaged in a sexual relationship during this time.

If it were to be proven that the twins in question were conceived during natural intercourse, the father would be held responsible for support of the kids. If it were proven they were conceived instead through IVF, the signed written agreement would be enforceable relinquishing his rights as the parties had agreed upon in writing.

In this case, the judge ordered that the parties split all costs and fees associated with determining a better timeline to pinpoint the conception. This order caused the woman to drop her case. The mom in this case said that there was no point in proceeding because she already knew that the kids were conceived during the IVF process. She apparently had not been completely honest with her attorney when they decided to file the Petition for Child Support.

Honesty and written agreements do matter. While a written agreement may not constitute an actual contract, they do show what the party’s intent was at the time of negotiation. Had this just been a verbal contract or agreement between the two of them, it’s much more likely that the Dad would in fact be on the hook for child support. The contract literally saved him tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Most people don’t enter in to contracts because they are trusting, don’t want to offend someone or think it will cost a lot to do so. The reality is that you can be trusting, but smart and protect yourself. You can’t worry about offending anyone when you are looking out for your best interests. And most of these contracts are simple and many don’t even require a lawyer.

Getting agreements in writing is what banks do, car dealers do, real estate agents do and anyone else who is smart does as well. Protect yourself by getting it in writing. If you don’t it could cost you a ton in the long run.