5 Basic Legal Rights When Given a Family Law Contract to Sign
- Independent Legal Advice: You have an inalienable legal right to seek to independent legal advice from a lawyer of your choice before you sign a prenup, marriage contract or separation agreement. If the person telling you that you don’t need a lawyer, don’t sign the document.
- Free will and the ability to understand the proceeding: Parties to a contract should be of sound mind so that they understand from their own lawyer the nature and consequences of the signing the contract presented to them. If they recall that they were ill, coerced, under the influence of alcohol or other substance, then they may have signed without understanding why they were being asked to sign and the inherent risks in doing so. The lawyer presenting the contract for your signature should be able to provide evidence of their notes taken during the meeting from the time the contract was presented to you, the questions you may have asked, your being offered independent legal advice, your ability to understand the proceeding, the people who were present, the financial disclosure including proper valuations of property, if required and an explanation of the provisions of the contract.
- Original copy of all documents signed and related documents: You have a legal right to an original copy of all of the documents you signed. If a party to the agreement changes the terms on their copy, you and each lawyer representing a party to the agreement will have independent original signed agreements from which the original terms can be corroborated and validated.
- Proof of ownership: If the contract provides that you will be excluded from sharing in the value or ownership of certain property owned during the marriage by your spouse then you have a right to documentary proof of ownership of the property in question. You may learn that the property was in fact jointly jointed by the spouses or owned by neither spouse.
- Proof of value: If the property identified in the contract excludes you from sharing in its value, then you have a legal right to receive independent documentary proof of the value of the property undertaken by a chartered valuator to understand the value of your interest in that property you are waiving. This due diligence is part of timely comprehensive financial disclosure exchanged between both parties of the domestic contract.
If you find yourself being asked to sign a document to restrict or waive your legal family law rights, contact Lorisa Stein for independent legal advice. She can be contacted through her website or by her direct telephone line at 416 596-8081.