Divorcing couples feel it is bad enough having to divide their net worth with their ex-spouse and so are reluctant to spend what they consider wasted money on divorce lawyers to help them reach a settlement. They see their future retirement assets being eroded and that Freedom 55 is looking more like Freedom 75.
Do You need a Divorce Lawyer to Have a Separation Agreement?
The simple answer is no you don’t. You can do it yourself with your spouse if you are amicable, agree on all issues including asset division, custody and access of children, and support both spousal and child support. There are sample agreements you can scour the internet for to help draft something that looks plausible. You can then have your, what I call the kitchen table agreement, signed by each party and duly witnessed and it will be a domestic contract. If you have no assets, no children and have been married a short time this is worth considering.
There are risks to Do-It-Yourself-Divorces
You have all heard the clichés “Penny-wise, pound-foolish” but more importantly “You don’t know what you don’t know”. It is the latter that I find most frightening for couples who embark on doing it themselves without the help of divorce professionals. I would never dream of trying to fix my car on my own. I am not stupid and yes I could research the internet, or take an auto mechanics course to diagnose and maybe fix the problem. Even if I did that I would not have the proper tools, “garage” and expensive equipment needed to deal with the electronics in automobiles today. It would also take a long time and in the meantime I am without a car and that would prevent me from living life – where transportation is required to go to work or attend social activities.
Think of your divorce the same way. Family law is not simple. Try reading the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act. If your eyes have not glazed over by page 20 of hundreds, try reading the 10,000 cases written by judges who had to interpret the law for parties who could not settle terms without divorce lawyers litigating in court on their behalf. The law is NOT black and white and so case law is often used by judges in rendering their court orders.
Parties can find themselves agreeing to terms that if they understood the legal, tax and financial implications or were even aware of them would have chosen differently. You may have unintentionally given up significant financial rights in terms of assets or future support. This lack of knowledge or making uninformed decisions can often become grounds for your once amicable kitchen-table agreement to be overturned in the future. Being miserly is now going to cost in significant legal fees with divorce lawyers.
Getting professional help does not mean you blow your brains out on divorce lawyers.
Minimizing Divorce Lawyer Costs
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that can be used in 95% of divorce and separation cases. Yes even in high conflict cases. Mediation allows the parties to actively be engaged in determining their own outcomes without each using divorce lawyers. A mediator, who does not need to be a lawyer, can guide parties by providing the necessary, legal and financial information needed to make informed decisions about their divorce settlement. As a CPA I can offer my clients that added benefit of exploring financial options that maximizes their combined net worth and also bring awareness to tax implications particularly for complex assets. Instead of preparing two sets of financial statements with individual divorce lawyers, I do it once for both saving considerable cost by avoiding the duplication and the back and forth that would occur between divorce lawyers and divorce lawyers and their respective clients.
All matters are negotiated with my clients including comprehensive parenting plans that are practical and flexible as needs change. PRM Mediation Mediators can draft all the required documents that divorce lawyers would prepare: financial statements needed for division of net family property and determining the Net Equalization Payment; support calculations (child and spousal support); and a settlement plan that outlines all the terms of separation.
It is at this stage that divorce lawyers are engaged. These documents are then reviewed with divorce lawyers who draft the final separation agreement and provide the independent legal advice to the parties.
Clients who follow our process and the divorce plan created uniquely for them at the commencement of the engagement are able to save considerably not only on legal fees with divorce lawyers but their entire divorce costs.
So choose mediation to get your separation agreement completed. Want to start now? Click here for a consultation.
Mary Krauel, Senior Negotiator/Mediator – PRM Mediation –
Divorce, Corporate, and Elder Care Issues – Serving Southwestern Ontario from Mississauga and London.