June 27, 2017

Separation Agreements: Why do I Need a Lawyer if we Agree?

Heather Mathison

When we talk about divorce and divorce lawyers, we usually think of hostile attitudes and battle-royales in the courtroom.

However, I’ve had many clients come to me where the relationship breakdown is amicable and, to their credit, they have reached agreement.

Many people might question why they should go to a lawyer if they agree on everything already. Other people question the expense of a lawyer to draft a separation agreement. Instead they may turn to a self-help book to draft the agreement themselves or not bother to write down anything at all.

For some people, they will be right – they will proceed according to the agreement and all will be ok. However, for others, things will not go according to plan. So, in answer to the question of why you need a lawyer even if you agree, I say the following.

Ensure an Agreement is Actually Reached

The act of reducing your agreement to writing will demonstrate whether you and your ex actually agree. It is surprising how easy misunderstandings are!

If you agree, then you should reduce that agreement to writing. If one side is not willing to put it in writing then that is a RED FLAG!

Your lawyer is there to draft the agreement to give effect to what you and your ex have actually agreed upon.

It’s a Contract! Know your Rights, Risks and Benefits

A separation agreement is a binding contract.

You should know your rights under the law, your ex’s rights, and understand the risks and benefits before you sign – you might change your mind and not want to agree to it anymore.

The court will not overturn a separation agreement unless necessary. In British Columbia, a separation agreement where one or both parties did not seek legal advice is, nonetheless, a binding contract.

Some persons are bullied into an agreement. Your lawyer can help you feel strong and achieve a fair resolution.

Protect Yourself

Your lawyer can help you understand if there is a gap in the agreement that needs to be dealt with.

Your lawyer can help you understand if a term of your agreement is not enforceable in a court of law.

Your lawyer can ensure the agreement is flexible enough to account for future matters – e.g. children growing older.

Your lawyer can ensure or assist with implementation – e.g. the payment of funds, transfer of property, and repercussions for not abiding by the agreement.

If both parties have legal advice, then it becomes that much harder to challenge the agreement. Legal advice protects the enforceability of the contract. The lack of legal advice can make a separation agreement vulnerable to attack.

Self-help guides risk not appropriately dealing with the nuances of your particular matter. I have helped clients to resolve matters arising from a badly drawn separation agreement.

A well drafted agreement will help to protect you now and into the future.

Outside Persons and Bodies

Your bank may require something in writing. Your bank wants to know about your financial obligations (how much support you pay), income (how much support you receive), and that interests in property have been given up or dealt with appropriately before they give you a loan or extend you credit.

Your children’s school might require something in writing as to the custody, access, parental time, and parental responsibilities.


The cost of a separation will save you money in the long run. If the agreement was not abided by, opinions changed, or the agreement was unclear or inflexible, then it is going to cost a lot more in legal fees to deal with it down the road.

A separation agreement is an upfront cost that can save you money in the long-term.


If your relationship has broken down then, for all the reasons above and more, I recommend you seek legal advice. Feel free to contact me at your convenience to set up an initial consult. I would be happy to discuss your matter and the associated cost.

You may complete the Request a Consult form found here on our website and our office will contact you regarding your matter.



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