1. Understand the agreement

You and your partner must understand what you’re agreeing to and what it means for the future.

For example, you and your partner may agree that you’re not going to pay to each other. This means both of you need to understand:

  • what spousal support is
  • what you are agreeing to now, which is not to get or pay spousal support
  • what you are agreeing to for the future, which is whether or not you or your partner can ask for spousal support later

If you or your partner later ask the court for spousal support, the court looks at the wording of your agreement to see what both of you understood you agreed to when you signed your agreement. Not at the time you challenge the agreement.

You don’t need a lawyer to make a . But it’s a very good idea for each of you to get your own legal advice before signing one. It’s important for each of you to get your own legal advice from different lawyers. This is sometimes called . The advice is independent because each lawyer is only working for one of you.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand:

  • The claims you can make after you separate or .
  • Your rights and responsibilities toward your children and your partner.
  • The rules your agreement has to follow to make it binding and enforceable under the law.
  • How your rights change once you sign the agreement.

If you decide not to get legal advice, you may not be able to argue later that you didn’t understand your legal rights when you signed the agreement.

If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers will provide “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainer” services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case, such as reviewing your separation agreement.

If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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