A common thread across many of our blogs is a reminder to readers to seek independent legal advice, especially when it comes to signing separation agreements. It’s a theme that comes up so often we wanted to clear up exactly what is meant by independent legal advice, and when it’s appropriate to seek it.
Defining Independent Legal Advice
Independent legal advice is defined as the advice each party to a legal issue gets from their own lawyer. This lawyer can only act for one individual involved in the agreement and cannot previously have acted on behalf of the other. Lawyers can only advise one party and the other party can’t just follow this advice.
When to Seek Independent Legal Advice
There are several scenarios in which it’s advised to seek independent legal advice. Here are some of the most common.
- Both parties came together to write a separation agreement and want it reviewed by a lawyer before signing it;
- Both parties went to mediation without lawyers and an agreement was produced out of that process;
- One party has a lawyer, retained them throughout mediation and the mediator drafted a separation agreement;
- One party has a lawyer and that lawyer wrote the separation agreement.
What Happens When You Seek Independent Legal Advice?
Seeking independent advice means having a legal expert on your side trained to look out for any negative eventuality that may arise from signing documents such as a separation agreement. Before signing the document, you will meet with the lawyer and go over the terms of the agreement to ensure they’re fair for both parties. Common questions asked by a lawyer will include:
- Do you understand everything included in the agreement?
- Are the material facts, as laid out in the agreement, true?
- Do you know they are true?
- Could you explain everything in the agreement to another person?
Ultimately, you are under no obligation to follow the independent legal advice you receive. However, the lawyer has to right to not witness you signing the document you received advice on, or write a letter of protest outlining they advised against signing.
Talk to the Experts
If you’re seeking independent legal advice, or you need help with any aspect of family law, talk to the expert team at Westside Family Law. We have been a trusted advisor to countless clients over the years and are standing by to help. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.