Independent Legal Advice

Do not sign a separation agreement without independent legal advice
You and your spouse have separated, and worked out the details of a separation agreement, either on your own, or with the help of a mediator. Although it is tempting to stop there, you and your spouse should obtain independent legal advice. Although you have done well to get to this point without the help of lawyers, it is important that you and your spouse each see a different lawyer to obtain independent legal advice.

What is independent legal advice?
This is when a lawyer finds out about your situation, advises you of your legal rights, reviews the draft separation agreement, explains it to you, both at a meeting and in writing, suggests amendments to the agreement, negotiates these amendments with your spouse’s lawyer, and if advisable, signs a certificate of independent legal advice.

What is the advantage of independent legal advice?
If you and your spouse have each obtained independent legal advice about your separation agreement, this will make it much more difficult to invalidate. Without independent legal advice, your spouse could claim that they did not understand what their rights were or what the agreement said. In that case, a court may invalidate your separation agreement.

What are the costs of independent legal advice?
This really depends on what is involved. In some cases, your situation may be simple, and your draft separation agreement may be fine as is. In these cases, the cost will be small. In other cases, a more extensive review will be necessary, as well as the negotiation of more changes. We normally require a $1000 retainer for independent legal advice, as normally your cost will be less than this.

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