Lawyers often tell you that your written separation agreement
needs to be made by a lawyer.
|Fact A written agreement is a domestic contract which is legal when signed and witnessed by any adult.
So why do Lawyers claim you need legal counsel for any agreement to be legal?
Let’s assume that lawyers know about the law, and also they know that an agreement is a domestic contract. The lawyer knows your agreement does not need to be made before a lawyer or have a lawyer witness your signatures, so if you hear him/her make the claim then ask him/her to produce the legislation.
Even before seeing your agreement a lawyer may say your agreement will not stand up in court unless it is created and signed by him/her. The most common reason given is that the lawyer’s job is to protect your rights and do what is best for you, and without his/her help you may be at risk.
The courts encourage you to use an agreement, and the courts also say that your agreement must be signed and witnessed, and can be made with or without legal counsel.
What happens next should scare you
Under normal conditions you and your ex can come to reasonable terms because there are rules about child support and property, which leaves very little room for fighting. So you use a free template to hash out the details, then one of you decides to take it to a lawyer for a quick review. You are told your agreement is invalid and should not trust anything from the internet. The lawyer will do his/her own cut and paste which will basically say the same thing as your version, and will not be anymore legal.
During your first interview the lawyer will ask some very basic questions about children, property, and money. The lawyer draws out your answers to discover your situation and to decide if it is in the lawyer’s best interest to represent you. “How much money can I make and does this person have the ability to pay”?
A lawyer cannot represent both sides, so your spouse will need to hire his/her own lawyer. The nature of lawyers is to be adversarial, Your simple separation agreement is now complex – and that my friend suits the lawyers just fine.
Consider this; if you have children you and your spouse and your team of lawyers have a duty to comply with the Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines have been in place for a while and are designed to eliminate fights and costly court time. There is little to argue about, and little to discuss about child support, but your lawyer, who you pay well to do what is best for you, despite the rules, may make claims for more money, thereby dragging things out with more meetings which results in you spending more money.
Property and pensions have their own set of rules, which also means there is little to discuss, but if you can pay the fee lawyers will find things to argue.
There are two legal issues about separation that may seriously require legal assistance. Claims for custody of children, or claims for spousal support. Often claims for child custody are used as a red herring, to stall or to avoid paying child support.
Lawyers truly like to fight over spousal support because it generates so much billings. Colin wrote the book How to Resolve Spousal Support Without Lawyers. For answers and more info about alimony and spousal support see www.myspousalsupport.com
“My girlfriend, and her ex, just spent $3G each, and their agreement is no more thorough than yours. The lawyers even downloaded it off the net.“