According to a recent survey of Canadian Lawyers, the average cost of a litigated Separation Agreement in Canada is approaching $27,000! That is without even reaching a trial, which could balloon that cost north of $45,000, way out of the budget of normal Canadians.
Still this doesn’t necessarily mean you go bargain bin shopping for your divorce. Your Separation Agreement is one of the most important documents that you will ever sign, one that will outline the terms between you and your ex-partner and one that you will have to live by for years to come. What it does mean, is that there is a fine line between protecting yourself and ending up in a nasty, contested divorced battle akin to one of the celebrity disputes in the news. In order to get the most value for your money, here are a few tips to keep in mind when negotiating a Separation Agreement:
Tip 1: Be Honest and Forthright With Your Ex-Partner
You may be tempted to hide money and assets and be less than truthful about your finances. Rest assured that this behaviour will only end in drained pockets. If your ex believes you are not being financially forthcoming, this will translate into an unwillingness to negotiate in general.
In some cases, out of frustration, your ex-partner may hire a forensic accountant, at great cost to all, to delve into your finances and root out the truth. Frankly once you’ve spent that kind of money attempting to uncover a paper trail, its not a big stretch to decide to spend a little more to push for a trial. Even if you are not hiding anything, that sense of mistrust will negatively impact your ability to settle outside of court, costing everyone more money and drama in the long run.
Tip 2: Prepare Before You Meet a Professional
Professionals are known as professionals because they provide experience, expertise, and fantastic advice. However, these benefits come at a price, often at several hundred dollars each hour. You don’t want to spend your entire meeting looking for documents and asking questions that have been answered thousands of times online. Instead, get organized, get educated, and prepare your specific questions in advance. You would be amazed at the amount you can accomplish in a meeting when you have an objective and a plan to complete it.
Tip 3: Think Creatively and Hire Creative Professionals
ONE: Your Separation Agreement does not have to be a zero-sum endeavour. TWO: It’s easy to get caught up in a battle over every last, little asset. THREE: Not all professionals are created equal.
There are no shortage of creative solutions out there and there are amazing professionals that can help you find those solutions. A good professional is worth their weight in creative solutions. Involve the right professionals and be open to creative advice.
Tip 4: Don’t Fan the Flames of Conflict
It is natural, and understandable, for emotions to run high during negotiations. However this is not the time nor is it in your best interests to use the negotiation process to intentionally “spank” your spouse. Your goal is to negotiate a settlement and sign a Separation Agreement. Your spouse will be less willing to resolve issues or relent from their entrenched position if you have been spending your time hurting them. A good rule of thumb is that the more emotional drama in the divorce proceeding, the more expensive that piece of paper will be.
Tip 5: Do it Right The First Time
Preparing a Separation Agreement is not a simple process regardless of what anyone has told you over a cup of coffee. Really take the time to think and research before you engage in a process of creating a Separation Agreement. Be realistic about what is involved in a Separation Agreement and spend enough time and money to prepare it correctly. Done properly, with emotions in perspective and you can minimize costs and drama. Create a Separation Agreement improperly and be assured that the drama will continue on for years.