Do-It-Yourself Separation Agreements?
In today’s world of internet resources and do-it-yourself guides, it is tempting to try to negotiate and write your own prenuptial agreement or separation agreement. After all, working with a lawyer can be expensive. Why not DIY?
Negotiating an Agreement
If you are negotiating the terms of your agreement, or attending mediation, a lawyer can ensure you understand all of your rights and obligations. A lawyer can meet with you before and after negotiations or mediation sessions to discuss your case. A lawyer can also represent you in negotiations or attend mediation sessions with you; in this role, they can advocate for your position and protect you if your spouse is trying to take advantage of you.
Without a lawyer, you may agree to less than you deserve, pay more than you should, or waive rights without even knowing it.
Writing an Agreement
If you and your spouse/former spouse are in agreement regarding all the terms of an agreement, it may seem like doing things yourself is cheaper – and it may be in the short term. But writing your own agreement, or signing one without a lawyer’s advice, can lead to costly mistakes. It can be difficult and expensive to change an agreement after it is signed, and sometimes impossible.
A lawyer can provide an agreement and advice tailored to your family’s experiences, situation, assets and debts; you will not find that online or in a “do-it-yourself” kit at the store.
Signing an Agreement: Independent Legal Advice
When former spouses agree to the terms of their separation, one spouse will usually take care of having the agreement written. In such a case, the other spouse has the opportunity to obtain independent legal advice. As with negotiations, a lawyer’s advice at this stage is invaluable to ensure that you understand not only what the agreement means, but also what the law states you may otherwise be entitled to. Your spouse’s lawyer is not able to go through the agreement with you.
I realize that working with a lawyer can be an incredibly expensive undertaking, and even after considering the benefits of working with a lawyer, it may still seem overwhelming. I try my best to make it easier for my clients by being upfront about my fees, sending regular and detailed bills, not charging for some expenses (e.g. photocopies and postage) and, when possible, working with clients on payment plans.
If you are considering “doing it yourself” to save costs or for other reasons, please contact me to discuss how I may be able to help you.
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