Increasingly separating couples are looking for ways to reduce the costs of separation. They might try alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law, which are excellent options in the right situation.
Some couples, however, try drafting their own Separation Agreement or using one downloaded from the internet. Sometimes these “home-made” agreements are reasonable and appropriate for the individuals involved. As a Family Law lawyer, however, I increasingly see the failure of home-made and internet agreements. Even where the separation appears to be straightforward, after the “home-made” agreement has been signed, circumstances change or people realize they did not understand the consequences of what they were agreeing to at the time. The terms the couple agreed to may no longer be workable for them or their children. Surprises, like a serious illness or a job loss may mean that one party cannot do what was expected. In these circumstances, it can be very difficult and certainly costly, to fix the problem.
When I see these situations, I wish that the parent had taken the advice of a Family Law lawyer prior to signing the “home-made” agreement. The Family Law lawyer would have been able to make modifications to avoid potential future problems and allow the separating couple to keep their costs as low as possible but still make sure their legal rights and obligations were clear. Spending a little more early on could have prevented a big cost down the road!