Separating spouses who are still amicable may attempt to negotiate a separation agreement between themselves. Some separating spouses are tempted to use online templates or do-it-yourself kits and are lured by the promise of “quick” and “cheap” solutions.
In such cases, your efforts may often end up costing you more in the long run. It is strongly recommended that you have a family lawyer draft your separation agreement. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider having a professional draft your agreement.
Reasons You Should Have a Family Lawyer Draft Your Separation Agreement
#1. You do not want important issues to be missed. Your separation agreement may deal with a variety of issues such as spousal support obligations and division of property and debt. If you have children, your separation agreement will also address child support, parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, formerly known as custody and access. A well-drafted agreement will also deal with a wide range of other extremely important matters, including pensions, RRSPs, investments, life insurance, medical and dental benefits, special and extraordinary expenses for children, a preferred mechanism for dispute resolution and tax implications. A family lawyer will help you ensure that important issues are not overlooked.
#2. You want to know - and protect - your legal rights. Family law is highly complex. A number of federal and provincial laws apply to family law disputes, and the law is constantly changing. See here for the discussion of the major changes to Canada’s Divorce Act). You simply cannot be expected to know all the fine points of the law. Consequences can be dire if your separation agreement fails to address certain issues or you make a “bad bargain.” You may expose yourself to liability, lose property rights, or miss out on the right to claim certain benefits. You may wind up with more than your share of debt or be stuck with an unworkable parenting arrangement. In the worse case scenario, you may be unable to change your agreement, or you may have to go to court to ask the Judge to set aside your agreement. An experienced family lawyer knows the law and how to protect your rights.
#3. You want a fair separation agreement. It is difficult to reach a fair agreement if you do not know your rights and obligations. It is impossible to reach a fair agreement if your former partner is hiding assets or income. It is dangerous to try to negotiate with an abusive, threatening, or controlling spouse. You need to ensure that negotiations are fair and the agreement is drafted accurately to reflect the agreements reached. If you have a lawyer on your side, you have the ability to address any power imbalances and to reduce emotionally charged negotiations. Your lawyer is your advocate and is working to secure full financial disclosure of your spouse’s income, assets and debts. Your lawyer will advise you of the law and the legal implications before you sign any agreement. When both spouses have independent legal advice, it ensures rights, responsibilities and obligations are understood before the Agreement is signed and it helps prevent future claims that the agreement is unfair.
#4. You want a separation agreement that is both binding and flexible. The separation agreement you sign will have lasting consequences for you and your children. These contracts usually touch on many important aspects of your life: where you and your children will live, who will make important decisions about your children’s upbringing, whether or not you receive child support or spousal support and what property and assets you keep. You want a separation agreement that is valid and enforceable. This certainly will give you peace of mind today. But you also want the agreement to have the flexibility to deal with the inevitable changes that life brings. When you have a family lawyer draft your separation agreement, you get the benefit of their experience and knowledge. Family Lawyers know the types of issues that commonly arise in the months and years following separation and divorce. They know how to build provisions into your separation agreement to deal with changes and resolve disputes. A comprehensive separation agreement can prevent conflicts and help you avoid having to resort to the courts if disputes arise in the future.
Do you need a separation agreement? Get advice from a trusted family lawyer.
Going through a separation is often challenging. However, working with a lawyer can greatly facilitate the process. It can also save you time, save you money and save you the stress of going to court in the future if certain issues are omitted from the agreement, if the terms are unclear or if the agreement does not actually reflect the agreements you both have reached. At Valerie M. Little Law Corporation, our experienced family lawyer can help you draft a fair and comprehensive separation agreement that concisely reflects the terms agreed upon. Contact us today to learn more about our family law services in New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and Squamish.