family law agreements
Independent legal advice can be a necessity whenever someone is being asked to sign a family law agreement. Independent legal advice helps to make sure that: a proposed agreement is fair; adequate disclosure has been made; and, the person thinking about signing the agreement fully understands the impact that the agreement may have on their rights, responsibilities and choices.
The most common kinds of agreements in family law are: cohabitation agreements, sometimes called “living together agreements,” that a couple may sign when they first move in to live together; marriage agreements, that a couple may sign before or shortly after they get married; and, separation agreements, that a couple sign after they have ended their relationship and separated. Cohabitation agreements and marriage agreements are meant to address some of the legal issues that may come up if the couple later separates, to save them from having to resolve those issues through litigation or arbitration, although they can sometimes talk about how the couple will manage their relationship and their finances while they’re together. These agreements usually deal with property interests and sometimes future claims to spousal support. Separation agreements are intended to resolve the legal issues arising from a separation that has already happened, and usually address issues about parenting and the care of children after separation, the payment of child support, entitlement to and the payment of spousal support, and the division of property.
Other common family law agreements include assisted reproduction agreements as well as parenting agreements, support agreements and property agreements that only deal with certain aspects of the legal uses that come up after separation.
Someone who signs a family law agreement without getting independent legal advice about the agreement — it’s called “independent” legal advice, because the advice is provided by a lawyer whose only duties and loyalty are toward the person getting the advice, not the other people who are parties to the agreement — can sometimes try to challenge the agreement later on, by claiming that they didn’t fully understand the agreement, that they were forced to sign the agreement or that they didn’t have enough information to evaluate the fairness of the agreement before they signed it.
John-Paul has provided independent legal advice on family law agreements of all types since being called to the bar in 2000. His extensive experience providing public legal education, including writing the wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law, uniquely equips him to explain complicated legal concepts in plain language.
If a couple are going to address a family law dispute through mediation, arbitration or parenting coordination, they will be asked to sign a participation agreement much like the participation agreements used by John-Paul Boyd Arbitration Chambers. It is important to have a lawyer review and explain the participation agreement to understand:
how the agreement may limit the parties’ right to litigate the dispute;
the extent of the confidentiality provided by the dispute resolution process, or whether the process is confidential at all;
how the dispute resolution professional expects to be paid; and,
other key terms of the agreement that limit the parties’ rights or impose obligations.
People retaining John-Paul Boyd Arbitration Chambers to provide mediation, arbitration or parenting coordination services will be encouraged to obtain independent legal advice about our participation agreements before signing them, either from their own lawyer or from a lawyer they retain for that specific purpose.