My husband and I are separating and we are planning to sit down and discuss how we will handle everything moving forward. Is there any problem with negotiating matters by ourselves?
When two people decide to separate, there is often the temptation to sit down together around the kitchen table and make agreements and decisions around very important matters, like child custody, spousal and child support, and division of family assets. Many separating couples engage in these discussions in the spirit of cooperation and because they want to minimize the cost associated with lawyers negotiating and drafting what seems to be a simple and straightforward separation agreement.
These discussions can be a very helpful starting point for separating spouses but, unfortunately, very often the agreements reached do not take into account the legal framework around separation and divorce. When they take their kitchen table agreement to an experienced family law lawyer for review, they are usually told the agreement isn’t enforceable. This can sometimes lead to frustration and anger when it seems that one person is now changing their mind about decisions that were made in good faith.
There are many circumstances to consider when it comes to deciding whether, and how much, spousal support might be owed, how the family’s property will be divided, how the children will be cared for by each parent, and how the children’s expenses will be covered. Even with the best of intentions, most couples simply don’t know enough about the legal considerations around separation and divorce.
The best decision a separating couple can make around the kitchen table is to each seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer in order to understand the options available to them for resolving family and financial matters arising in separation and divorce. Seeking the advice of a family law lawyer isn’t a sign things will get ugly or complicated. It is the recognition that you each want to have all of the necessary information to make sound decisions for your family and your future during a very normal family transition.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This publication is the 36th installment of our firm’s Legal Matters series, which answers a reader’s question every week. If you have a general legal question that you would like to have addressed please send it via email to email@example.com