What to do next after you reach agreement with your ex.
If you value your sleep read on!
After lengthy discussion, much frustration, and considerable emotional turmoil, you and your ex have apparently reached agreement on the terms of your separation.
The best place to start is what not to do next.
This usually involves one of the two parties purchasing a Separation Agreement precedent either on-line or from a retail outlet and simply filling in the blanks. Both parties then sign the Agreement, and have it witnessed, usually by a friend or neighbour.
So what’s wrong with that?
Plenty, and here’s why.
Firstly, in all the many years that I have reviewed such agreements for my family law clients I have yet to see, even one, which was properly completed.
This means that important issues may not actually have been finally resolved or even properly settled, leading to potential (completely unanticipated) future problems.
To illustrate, I recently met with someone and reviewed their agreement. Not only was the critical issue of the waiver of spousal support left unclear, but the parties had also miscalculated the payment of child support.
Secondly, I have also yet to see one agreement which dealt comprehensively with all of the key issues, such as the possibility of the re-location of the child’s residence, or the sharing of certain child related expenses.
Lastly, because these agreements are signed and witnessed without the benefit of independent legal advice there always remains the possibility that a spouse could seek to have the entire agreement set aside on the basis that they did not properly understand their legal interests.
So much for having an agreement which you believed was final!
Which leads me to tell you what I believe is your next best step once you and your ex have reached agreement.
Make an appointment with an experienced family lawyer such as me and give them the details of your “agreement”. (Readers of this blog know it’s an even better idea to meet with counsel before you and your ex discuss and “finalize” the terms to avoid (both likely and damaging) misunderstandings.
The lawyer will be able to advise you (before you sign) if any key issues have been either omitted or misunderstood, and steer you in the right direction.
You can also ask the lawyer to prepare a draft agreement for you to review with your spouse, or at the very least have any draft agreement which you receive from your spouse reviewed before you sign. This is the very best way to avoid future complications.
After all, considering everything you’ve already been through, you deserve a good night’s sleep!