Here’s the thing, we approach family law very differently; for every family law case, we ask the question, “What is the real problem here, and what are the short term and long-term solutions?”. Overall, our goal as a firm with all family law cases is to understand every client’s long-term goals – not just focusing on the here and now. By approaching cases in this manner, we keep parties from getting distracted and bogged down by arguments over petty issues that won’t matter in a year’s time and fights over money that aren’t worth the legal bills. Our priority and focus is to ensure divorces and separations are as quick and painless as possible, but also to ensure once we’ve closed a file won’t have to open back up again anytime soon.
Our client’s end goal is our end game.
This means we do our very best to explore all possible alternatives to Court Room resolutions. Going to Court is always expensive, usually a gamble, and often the resolutions are incomplete. That being said, the Court Room is, unfortunately, the only way to reach a resolution when parties cannot abide by and meet their commitments, or refuse to co-operate.
The alternative to Court Room litigation is to settle your matter by way of a Divorce (or Separation) Contract. This is a document that deals with all of the practical matters arising from a separation: who will take what property, who will take what debts, will money be exchanged to equalize the division of property and debt, will there be spousal support, for how long, how much, when would it change, parenting, guardianship, child support, and many other relevant matters.
The most common questions about these contracts are:
- What does it cost for a lawyer to prepare the contract?
- Can people make their own contracts and have lawyers sign off?
- What’s the process flow?
To answer the first question, we charge fairly and accurately based on time spent on a file and we are always more than happy to discuss fees upon meeting any new client. Our fees will include time spent on:
- Our initial meeting (about an hour)
- The Agreement preparation
- Any additional time used to revise then sign off on the agreement.
- The quicker partiers can agree on all terms, the more affordable it is for our clients.
For those interested in preparing their own Separation Agreement, they can do so, but it is highly unlikely you will find a lawyer to sign it with you. Agreements that have not been signed with the independent legal advice of a lawyer are non-binding (not legal) in Alberta. Typically, lawyers don’t sign these “self-made” agreements because they are deficient or insufficient from a legal perspective, or sometimes contemplate clauses that are contrary to law, fail to protect the lawyer giving advice, etc. Understand that “signed by a lawyer” is more than notarizing/commissioning/witnessing. In this context, the reason hiring a lawyer is required (and beneficial) is so they can sign the Certificate of Independent Legal Advice (an ILA), which is attached to all binding agreements. This certificate confirms the signing party has met with a lawyer and the contract has been explained to that party in terms that they understand. Thus, the appointment for signature is quite involved and requires a lawyer to discuss this in-depth the situation/facts, etc.
Our process flow is simple. Our client and their spouse may not use the same lawyer, although only one lawyer will charge you to draft the agreement. In an ideal situation, the process is:
- Client and their ex get a rough idea as to what the terms are
- One of the parties involved meets with Hayes Fry Law, receives advice as to those terms, and may make changes (approximately 1 hour of time)
- The lawyer prepares the Agreement and reviews some basic financial disclosure (4 hours)
- The Client and lawyer make any final changes to the agreement (approx. 30 min)
- The Client and their spouse discuss the final draft and agree to any changes
- The Client informs their lawyer about any changes; The lawyer gives the client advice as to the changes and then they are implemented (approx. 30 min)
- The contract is sent to another lawyer who the Client’s spouse meets with and signs the agreement after independent legal advice (usually 1-2 hours, often paid by the spouse themselves)
- The client meets with their lawyer and together, they sign the document (usually less than 1 hour)
- The client is now legally separated and can either apply for a divorce judgment or have their lawyer do it.
We prioritize this work, and we will get any client in for a consult quicker than we would a client with a contested matter. We also prioritize the drafting of agreements and happily stay late to get contracts completed. Previously, our family law team has completed the entire process in as little as 3 days, but typically the total time from initial meeting to final signing is about 6 weeks.
If you’re looking for a Divorce or Separation Agreement to help you get financing for a home purchase, contact Hayes Fry Law for a quick turnaround time!
This is how we redefine the practice of law. As we mentioned, everyone’s time is of the utmost importance to us, because our priority and focus are to ensure divorces and separations are as quick and painless as possible.
If you’re looking to hire a family lawyer, you are in good hands here at Hayes Fry Law because our clients’ best interest is at the heart of everything we do!