Recently, I have had quite a few cases with clients who have had entered into “kitchen table” agreements with spouses soon after separation. In many ways, I can understand why parties enter into these agreements. Clients are frequently emotional and vulnerable immediately after separation and their first impulse is to “quickly settle” matters with their spouse. As a result, they often enter into what we like to call “kitchen table” agreements – literally, agreements made at the kitchen table without any advice by lawyers or any financial disclosure.
Sounds great, right? The agreement is done quickly, the parties unwind their financial affairs, they go their own ways. All without the cost of lawyers.
Unfortunately, as someone who has now seen quite a few of these types of agreements fall apart, I can say that the initial money saved is paltry in comparison to the funds spent later on trying to either uphold the agreement or tear it down.
In my experience, and despite my efforts to keep matters out of litigation, clients who come to see me about such agreements frequently end up in court. Leaving aside the legal vulnerabilities of such agreements, disputes about them are frequently difficult to resolve. This is because once parties have signed any agreement, including “kitchen table” agreements, they have created expectations between them. Invariably, one party will expect that the agreement be upheld while the other party will find it unconscionable. In my experience, it is very difficult to negotiate to a satisfactory conclusion when parties have adopted either one of these polar positions.
It is absolutely understandable to have the instinctual impulse to “just settle things” with your spouse at the end of a relationship. However, as someone who has seen the destructive and costly consequences of litigation over these arrangements after the fact, for most clients, getting legal advice the first time is the safest and most cost effective way to proceed.
If you would like a consultation about your separation plans, please contact me.