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Self-executed separation agreements may not hold up in court

When people split up, there can be some confusion over who gets what. Sometimes, people will attempt to privately resolve financial matters, then look to change initial separation agreements once they are educated by an Alberta family lawyer. Separation agreements with no legal oversight can be overturned by the courts as an invalid document, so it is important that any agreement is properly reviewed and executed by both parties.

The first requirement for separation agreements in Alberta is financial transparency. If one or both parties attempt to hide assets, the agreement can be considered invalid by courts. The other thing that is needed is independent legal advice for both parties. Financial advisors are also recommended. This tells the courts that you have both reviewed the agreement to the fullest possible extent with counsel.

Along with the agreement itself, people must sign a legal document swearing validity. If this is not done, a judge has more liberty to change the agreement at the request of one party. Lawyers can not only educate those separating on what is in their best interests and what is needed under Alberta law, but they can also ensure these legalities are followed.

The problem with self-executed separation agreements is that one party can make a legal claim that he or she did not understand the terms, that the agreement was unfair or that the party wasn't able to seek expert opinions. By first involving financial and legal experts on both sides, this can be avoided. For this reason, obtaining a family lawyer for each party should be one of the first steps in a breakup, separation or divorce.

Source:, "Why your separation agreement might not be final", Debbie Hartzman, March 23, 2018

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