Absolutely everything – If you do it right!
I’ve seen it all when it comes to do-it-yourself Separation Agreements. And that is definitely not a good thing. Everything from wrongly crossed out paragraphs, crucial missing provisions, to the use of foreign legal terms downloaded from some other jurisdiction. It all makes me shudder.
Nonetheless, when I was recently asked by someone, whether her and her ex should simply prepare their own Separation Agreement, I was temporarily at a loss for words.
So I think it’s about time I came clean on the subject, once and for all.
The most common do-it- yourself Agreements in my experience are pre-printed forms, or on-line precedents, which the person is expected to correctly complete. This sounds good in theory.
That is, if you and your ex perfectly fit the standard profile. Sort of like Barbie and Ken.
But that’s never going to happen. Because despite what may appear to be numerous similarities, just like you and your ex are unique individuals, so is your family law situation.
Using a cookie cutter, one form fits all approach, risks overlooking some essential elements, which need to be addressed and settled. If not, they are virtually guaranteed to re-appear at a later date, causing big headaches.
Here’s just one such example. Parties select “reasonable and generous access” as a term of the Agreement. After all, it seems fair at the time to both parents. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, since both parties must agree as to what is “reasonable and generous”, it can, (and does) become fertile ground for disagreement, and future litigation.
I won’t even bother commenting on the fact that the vendors of such forms and precedents also take for granted that they’ll be properly filled in, suffice to say this is an unrealistic expectation. After all, it’s not that uncommon for even family lawyers to make mistakes when preparing Agreements. At least your lawyer has professional insurance coverage if they screw up.
So then what’s the problem with preparing the draft Separation Agreement yourself, and then having an experienced family lawyer, such as me, review it?
Nothing at all and that’s an excellent idea, since I always encourage my clients to take a hands-on, kitchentabledivorce.ca approach.
However, in my own experience, by the time I’ve reviewed, and corrected the proposed draft agreement, interviewed you to assess your situation, and specific concerns, and informed you of your legal rights and obligations, and recommended much needed changes, you’ll be much further ahead by talking to me first, before preparing anything!
Unless of course you’re Barbie, (or Ken)!