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Gary Direnfeld

Do I need a Lawyer?

Do I need a lawyer? Perhaps the best quick answer is “Maybe”.  If you and your partner know what you are doing; are in agreement on everything; can communicate well between yourselves; can figure out from on-line resources how to file your materials for divorce; and truly trust each other to follow your agreement, then you may not need a lawyer.

However, as you can see, there is a long list of provisos, so while you may think you don’t need a lawyer, it is generally recommended and accepted that at least consulting with a lawyer with regard to your separation, divorce or agreement is a good idea.

Think of separation or divorce as untangling the knot you tied in forming your relationship. By the time of separation, that knot includes at least your finances, your residence and often children. Given children, while you may untie one knot, you then have to figure out how you will continue to be tied again in the area of finances, residence and the ongoing care of your kids.

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Even in an amicable separation or divorce, you may not realize the implications of all your entanglements and the range of solutions available to disentangle. Many a people have made seemingly good agreements that none-the-less have left them in poor situations. A common scenario is a belief one can afford to remain in the matrimonial home only to find oneself unable to thereafter meet the full range of financial obligations. In other instances, people have divvied up their finances only to learn later of other tax implications that could have either been taken advantage of or avoided.

It is understandable that people may seek to avoid the cost associated with consulting a lawyer, however, that should be compared to the cost of making a decision that may not be favourable for any number of reasons.

As well as coming to an agreement, the agreement will have to be written down into a document often referred to as a Settlement Agreement. Regardless of who writes the agreement, it is also advisable to have a lawyer review the written document to assure you do understand the terms thereof and that the language used is clear and unambiguous. The process of having a lawyer review and make sure you understand and agree to the terms therein is called Independent Legal Advice (ILA) and is an important part to making your agreement legally binding.

Why is a social worker recommending consulting a lawyer? Because good and legally binding agreements can limit the risk of future conflict.

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