Divorce for Dummies - Chapter 2 - Full Disclosure
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
For those few unfortunate souls not familiar with Chapter 1 of this weekly blog series, it is generally necessary before a court will grant divorce, that the parties settle all outstanding family matters. This typically happens by way of a negotiated Separation Agreement, prepared by one of the parties lawyers. (For anyone contemplating a DIY Separation Agreement please wait until you read Chapter 3, next week)
So I’m usually asked how do we start the process of negotiating a Separation Agreement?
My answer is always the same, with full disclosure.
I require both sides to disclose all of their assets and liabilities. Sometimes I am told by my client that their spouse will refuse to disclose their assets. I simply remind my client since a Separation Agreement requires co-operation and mutual agreement, that if either party refuses to provide full disclosure, the process will revert to costly litigation, rather than negotiation. That information is usually all that’s needed to inspire increased co-operation from the other spouse.
However, I’ve also had many clients over the years tell me they don’t need to know what assets their spouse may have, they just “want to get it over with, and sign the damn agreement”. Here’s the problem, and it’s a combination first, and foremost, about client interest, and my own professional interest.
Since the client is not interested in full disclosure, there is no way to be sure exactly what the client is walking away from. It could be nominal, or the client could be walking away from an extremely valuable asset that they were unaware of, and which they will regret doing should the assets ever come to light.
I am also not acting in my client’s best interests, if I simply follow my client’s instructions, and disregard what I believe they need to know.
Here’s my standard response in such circumstances. I inform my client that they can certainly walk away from whatever asset they like, on one condition, they know the value they are walking away from.
At that point they are fully informed as to what they are giving up, and I have fulfilled my professional obligation to the client.
So, to sum up. For the sake of convenience, do not compromise your legal interests by walking away from something unknown.
Otherwise, you risk giving up far more than you bargained for, or rather risk losing what you didn’t bargain for.
Don’t be that dummy.
Stay tuned for next weeks episode. If you need to talk before then please call Scott Taylor at 604-534-6361