When you have decided to separate from your life partner, many factors must be taken into consideration from a legal standpoint. Because you may be deeply involved in the emotional aspects, it can be difficult to be forward-thinking or understand what the division of assets will entail.
Thus, it is important to hire a family law lawyer to protect your interests and properly document the separation in a separation agreement. Below are some key factors detailing how a family law lawyer can help you in this situation.
1. Advocacy. When you are negotiating the division of property, your lawyer can help protect your legal interests by ensuring there is a fair division. Your lawyer may flag factors such as sentimental value and market value and help you ensure you are not making emotionally charged decisions. Further, your lawyer can put implementation and enforceability procedures in place to protect you if your partner disagrees in the future.
2. Professionally Drafted Agreement. While you can draft an agreement yourself, there are key elements to contracts which you may not think of or know how to draft clearly. For example, a lawyer will know what standard clauses to include, including a a dispute resolution mechanism so either party knows exactly what to do if the other party breaches the agreement. Further, the language used by the lawyer will be clear and definitive so that neither party can claim a misinterpretation in the future. Finally, your lawyer can review the entire agreement and ensure there are no unenforceable clauses.
Although verbal agreements are enforceable, they are much more difficult to prove to a court than a properly drafted written agreement prepared by a lawyer. For example, in Wharton v. Tang, 2014 BCSC 238 (CanLII), the plaintiff and her husband held property as joint tenants and at some point, her husband severed the joint tenancy without her knowledge. The plaintiff claimed they had a verbal agreement relating to their separation wherein they held the property as joint tenants and, by severing the tenancy, he breached their agreement. The court reviewed the plaintiff’s evidence including a separation agreement drafted by the plaintiff herself, which was never signed. However, the court found that the plaintiff did not prove that there was an agreement not to sever the joint tenancy. This type of misunderstanding could have been clearly documented with the assistance of a family law lawyer avoiding the financial cost and headache of attending court.
Having a family law lawyer involved early on in the separation agreement process is important so they can document exactly what the parties are agreeing to. For example, in Range v. Bremner, 2003 BCSC 2038 (CanLII), the parties entered into a separation agreement with a built-in dispute mechanism wherein both parties agreed to arbitration in the event of a disagreement. The husband wanted to vary the amount of spousal support paid and relied on the arbitration clause to do so. The court agreed that the husband could rely on this clause and the arbitrator could decide whether there was a material change in circumstances and whether the amount of spousal support should be changed.
3. Flexibility for the Future. It is natural that your needs or your partner’s needs may change in the future and the current agreement will no longer make sense later based on your original circumstances. A family law lawyer can guide you through various fact scenarios and account for those future changes in the agreement now so there are no situations where you do not know what to do. For example, if you and your partner agree on a certain amount of spousal support but the payor gets a triple-bump in salary, should their contribution increase proportionally? Or, how will a temporary loss of income be addressed? What if your partner requires more assistance as your child takes on costly extra-curricular activities or a post-secondary education? Your lawyer can help document such scenarios by making the agreement flexible for any reasonable future changes.
Consult With Valerie M. Little, Separation Agreement Lawyer
In New Westminster and other locations in BC, first contact Valerie M. Little for a family law consultation about your separation. We can review your situation and help you embark in negotiations to draft a viable agreement. You’ll want a signed agreement to divide your assets, debts and familial obligations, especially if you opt to divorce. Such decisions should be given careful consideration, be properly made and agreed to in writing. Protect yourself legally by speaking to an experienced separation or divorce lawyer today. Call our office at 604-526-3333.