Although our blog has talked frequently about the benefits of cordial, out-of-court divorce proceedings, it is important to receive input from a lawyer with a keen understanding of family law. It doesn't make sense for individuals to negotiate a settlement by their own rules, because, should things go wrong or if the agreement conflicts with established law a court is unlikely to follow the couple's divorce agreement. Using alternative dispute resolution techniques is a wise choice for many people in Alberta, but they should do so with a lawyer's guidance.
That was not the approach one woman from Ontario took. Louise Marcus and her husband wanted to divorce in August 2005, but they apparently didn't want to spend money on lawyers to do it. They wrote a separation agreement after which Ms. Marcus had second thoughts and took it to a lawyer for review. Despite the lawyer's advice not to sign the agreement, Ms. Marcus did so.
One year later Ms. Marcus complained that the agreement had caused a loss of $80,000. Whether she actually experienced the loss or a loss of that magnitude is unknown, but what is clear is that it was not her lawyer's fault. Ms. Marcus, however, had other ideas and filed a lawsuit against the lawyer who advised her alleging that it was the lawyer's negligence that caused her losses. Ms. Marcus' lawsuit was dismissed and she was ordered to pay costs of $80,000.
It is certainly true that if a divorce lawyer is negligent and that negligence results in loss or damages, his or her former client can file a claim, but that is not what happened here. Instead, this case has served as an excellent reminder that even people who can come up with separation agreements on their own often need (and should heed) legal sound advice.
Source: Calgary Herald, "Woman who sued divorce lawyer after ignoring advice hit with hefty legal bill," Colin Perkel, March 20, 2014