3. Get your own independent legal advice

What if my partner and I agree on what to do after we separate or divorce?
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3. Get your own independent legal advice

You don't need a lawyer to make a separation agreement. But it's a very good idea for each of you to get your own legal advice before signing one.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand:

  • the claims you can make if you separate or divorce
  • your rights and responsibilities toward your children and your partner
  • the rules your agreement has to follow
  • how your rights change once you sign the agreement

You and your partner should not go to the same lawyer. It is important for each of you to get your own legal advice from different lawyers. This is sometimes called independent legal advice (ILA). The advice is independent because each lawyer is working for only one of you.

It is important to get ILA because:

  • it helps you understand what you're agreeing to
  • your agreement is less likely to be challenged in court later
  • a court is more likely to order you and your partner to do what you agreed to in your agreement

If you decide not to get legal advice, you may not be able to argue later that you didn't understand your legal rights when you signed the agreement.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case, such as reviewing your agreement.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you might be able to find legal help in other places.

Reviewed: July 15, 2019

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