This post originally ran July 31, 2014 on the ELAN blog.
Earlier this month, we launched an entirely new kind of animal: a fill-in-the-blanks/choose your own options 7-part separation agreement guide. The feedback that LSS received through community consultation over the years has revealed a need for material to help people draft their own separation agreements.
How to write your own separation agreement is based on a precedent manual produced by the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC (CLEBC). LSS and CLEBC collaborated on an agreement to allow LSS to rely on CLEBC’s Family Law Agreements: Annotated Precedents as source material.
The new guide is unlike any of our earlier guides, and results in a basic personalized separation agreement, which can be filed at the court registry as a first step toward a divorce.
Users fill in what looks like an online form (section by section), following instructions that are both technical and provide legal information on what words to include. They choose relevant paragraphs by toggling “include/don’t include” buttons on or off, and fill in the necessary dates and names. Some elements (like names) automatically appear throughout the rest of the section after they’re entered once.
Upon completing each section of the guide, the user clicks an “Open text version” button. This strips out all the instructions and unused paragraphs, collects all the selected/entered content, and moves it to a new window.
From that window, users can copy and paste each section into a Word or other word processing document, and tweak or add further details as/if required (for example, sequential numbers for all paragraphs once the agreement is complete). (Numbered paragraphs are required if the agreement is to be filed at the court registry.)
In the interests of keeping this simple, the guide doesn’t store the entered information anywhere once the user leaves each Web page. This protects the user’s privacy, but also means they must either complete each section at one sitting or store partially completed sections by clicking the “Open text version” button and saving their work to another file that they can add to later.
Our guide is based on CLE’s Family Law Agreements: Annotated Precedents, which is available by subscription to the general public for $250 for those who need to write a more complex agreement.
Initial test results have been positive. Users found it easy to use and understand.
Currently, the guide contains sections on parenting, child and spousal support, and debts. In late August, we’ll be adding a section on property and pensions. [Ed. note: this section is now available]
We welcome your feedback on our latest creation! Send us an email and let us know what you think.