You can draft your separation agreement yourself, however, it is not a good idea. This is true even if you and your spouse are on good terms.

Many couples may balk at retaining lawyer when they can draft the separation agreement themselves using a “kit” from their local stationary store. However, retaining a lawyer to assist you with drafting your separation agreement will save you much time and money in the future.

There are many reasons why the court may set aside a separation agreement or set aside provisions in a separation agreement:

– If there was no financial disclosure or if one or both spouses fail to disclose an asset;
– If your agreement was not executed properly and witnessed;
– If neither your nor your spouse received independent legal advice;

Should the court determine that your separation agreement is not valid or certain provisions of your agreement are not enforceable, you are at risk of having to make further and significant payments to your former spouse; this is true even if you have re-married or re-partnered.

I often receive calls from clients who have entered in to kitchen table agreements years after they have been signed.

The short answer is “no”, but it is a good idea. While you may not need to have a lawyer to assist you with a separation agreement, having a lawyer assist you with your separation agreement when you separate from your spouse will save you much time and money later.

Seeking a lawyer to assist you with a separation agreement need not be excessively expensive nor a lengthy process. You can assist your lawyer by collecting all of your financial information in advance of your meeting, including your assets and debts from the date you got married as well as the date of your separation. You will also need to have your last three income tax returns and Notices of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If you do not have your Notices of Assessment, contact CRA or register for an online account to obtain your Notices of Assessment as soon as possible.

If you are having emotional difficulty with your separation with your former spouse or if you have experienced abuse within your relationship, it is important to seek proper professional support. You are not alone and there are many excellent resources for you to seek the support you need to give your lawyer instructions. You will need to make important decisions regarding your future (and your children’s future) and, while your lawyer will advise you of your rights and obligations, the final decision is always yours. If you are uncertain as to who to contact, your family law lawyer should be able to direct you to appropriate services.

Being fully informed of your rights and obligations under the law when you separate will hopefully reduce the level of conflict you might be having with your spouse. Your family law lawyer will also be able to assist you by managing your expectations and by ensuring that all of the provisions in your separation agreement will be enforceable and valid in the future should your spouse not comply with the terms.

It is also important to remember that the facts of your friends or family member’s separation and divorce are not the same as your separation.

If you and your spouse are not able to agree on one or more issues, I always suggest mediation. Mediation is far cheaper and quicker than going to court. For the most part, spouses share the cost of the mediator equally.

If your spouse ceases paying child or spousal support the Family Responsibility Office may not enforce your separation agreement if it is not drafted or worded properly. Should this occur, you would have to attend court to obtain orders.

We call them “kitchen table” agreements in the family law world. But is your kitchen table agreement valid and enforceable? The answer a lot of the time is no, and the cost to fix a kitchen table agreement is high.

If one of you misrepresent your assets or income, the court may step in and order further payments to your former spouse.

While you may not think it is required to seek legal advice now or that you do not want to spend the money when you and your spouse agree, it will save you significant problems in the future.

You may overlook important issues and you may not fully understand your obligations in the agreement. This leaves you vulnerable to conflict later with your former spouse as well as court action if you each have a different understanding of your obligations.

Your separation agreement will direct how your relationship with your children will be now and in the future.

If you and your spouse have agreed on most of issues and have collected your assets, debts and income,