3. Get your own independent legal advice

What should we do if we agree on spousal support?
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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 after you separate or divorce.
  • Your rights and responsibilities toward your children and your partner.
  • The rules your agreement has to follow to make it binding and enforceable under the law.
  • 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 only working for one of you.

Besides helping you understand what you're agreeing to, there are other important reasons to get ILA. If you and your partner each get ILA, your agreement is less likely to be challenged later. And a court is more likely to order you and your partner to do what you agreed on.

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 separation agreement.

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

Reviewed: July 15, 2019

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