Many people with legal issues arising from family breakdown would like to resolve them by agreement but are not sure where to start. The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA) now has a free-of-charge Agreement Maker available on familylaw.plea.org. Individuals who want to access this tool can get started by creating a free account and then selecting “I want to make an agreement”.
The need for agreements is often recognized by the parties themselves. Since the 2012 launch of the self-help website, Family Law Saskatchewan, PLEA has worked with many self-represented people dealing with family breakdown and has found that for many individuals their initial priority is to get a separation agreement in place. However, the spectre of drafting an agreement without legal representation is often overwhelming and obtaining legal representation, especially for an open-ended issue like resolving all outstanding family law matters, is often well out of their reach.
Without a practical and user-friendly way to create an agreement, the initial drive to reach an agreement can get lost and focus can quickly turn to what the parties do not agree on. An easily accessible tool such as the Agreement Maker allows people to create an agreement before problems arise and capitalize on any initial goodwill.
The Agreement Maker gives people the unique option to work on solutions to their family law issues in an environment that is supported by technology, current jurisdiction-specific plain-language legal information, and e-mail support. There is no cost associated with its use and the only thing required is access to a computer, tablet or smart phone and basic internet. People can use computers and internet connections in public spaces, such as libraries, if they do not have their own access. Through technology, individuals in typically under-served rural and remote areas have the same access as people in larger centers.
The nature of the Agreement Maker makes it a very versatile tool. It can be used in a wide range of situations, from couples working through it on their own to individuals using it to create an agreement based on assistance they received from counsellors, mediators or even lawyers. With the advent of unbundled legal services individuals can also take completed agreements to lawyers for a limited review and drastically reduce their legal fees while at the same time receiving legal advice on crucial aspects, such as property division.
Access to justice is a complex and ongoing problem for which there are no easy solutions but the Agreement Maker offers a concrete way to advance access to justice for the many people dealing with family breakdown without help from a lawyer. It gives people the tools they need to resolve their legal issues in their own unique way. It removes barriers individuals now face when contemplating a separation agreement, including barriers such as not knowing about the relevant law, not knowing where to start, not knowing the legal requirements, and not understanding their options.
PLEA’s Agreement Maker guides people through the process with simple interview style questions. People can deal with a wide range of issues using the Agreement Maker – from custody, child support, spousal support and family property to consent orders.