Why You Should to Talk with a Lawyer Before You Sign Anything
Domestic contracts (marriage contracts, cohabitation agreements, and separation agreements) deal with, can alter, or otherwise nullify parties’ legal rights to property, support, and custody of or access to children. Such contracts therefore, can have lasting and serious effects on one’s life and financial stability. Therefore, it is advisable that both parties understand their rights and obligations, and seek “independent legal advice” prior to agreeing to or signing anything.
Independent legal advice (commonly referred to as “ILA”) involves a private conversation between a client and their own, personally retained, lawyer. In relation to domestic contracts, independent legal advice requires that the conversation be about the nature and effects of entering into the contract. Most commonly, lawyers will explore what the client believes (or expects) is in the contract, followed by a thorough line-by-line review and explanation of the contract and its written terms.
Family law lawyers are experts on issues related to cohabitation, marriage, separation, and divorce. Consequently, they are able to advise a party on their legal rights and obligations, assess whether all agreements are legally valid and enforceable, and ensure that all determinations are mutually acceptable and in the party’s best interests. Lawyers will also ensure that the contract does not overlook any important considerations, that the party adequately understands the agreement and its consequences, and that the party was not influenced or coerced in any way to sign the agreement.
The most important reason in favour of and benefit to independent legal advice is that it prevents both parties from later claiming that they did not understand or realize the consequences of what they were signing. If a domestic contract is questioned in the future, this can result in additional costs, uncertain outcomes, and lots of stress. Independent legal advice is therefore in both parties’ best interests, as it can have the effect of finalizing the matter more quickly and cost effectively.