If you Google the title of this article you will reach multiple vendors who want to sell you a “do it yourself kit” for a divorce (we call these matters “dissolution of marriage” in Missouri). I have been hired by a number of people who previously followed this path of not hiring a lawyer to a very bad result. Bad decisions about minor children are generally a lot more difficult to fix in a motion to modify if you don’t deal with them in the original dissolution of marriage proceeding.
If you have no children, little property or debt and both parties can support themselves and can work out by agreement the simple matter relating to dividing little property and debt, you might reasonably go the route of not hiring an lawyer.
Clearly, there are many situations when hiring a divorce lawyer is the only sensible thing to do. Most people don’t understand what is likely to happen when the parties don’t agree on everything. The first situation that I believe necessitates legal knowledge and therefore hiring a lawyer is when you have a minor child. You need an experienced advocate if you desire to have reasonable contact (both custody and visitation) with the child or children and you have questions about support of the children.
You clearly need a professional if there is a problem with abuse, whether it is spousal, child or substance abuse. Also, if the other party has a mental illness which causes you concern for your children, you need a lawyer. They can help get you or your children the protection needed during the divorce and after the divorce. Additionally, if you think that your spouse is lying about certain issues in the divorce, or is being vindictive, you may want to hire a lawyer that can help you cope with the situation and also protect your interests.
Many spouses that are going through a divorce often fear, with justification, violence, either to themselves or their children. If you think that your spouse may harm you or your children, you should take out an Adult or Child Protection order against your spouse immediately and take yourself and your children to a safe place. If you take your children away for their safety you should discuss your plans with a lawyer or your spouse may accuse you of kidnapping.
Generally speaking, if your spouse has already hired a divorce lawyer you should hire one also. Especially if your divorce involves children or complicated financial issues, it can be hard to deal with these complex and emotional issues when you are faced against a seasoned divorce lawyer.
In addition, if you need money in order to get to safety, you can take money out of any joint accounts that you have with your spouse. However, be sure not to take more out that you need, and try to keep it below half of what is in the account. Also, you need a lawyer to file a court action for immediate spousal or child support.
If you’ve read this and you’re still asking yourself “do I need a divorce lawyer?” the answer is probably “yes”. With an experienced lawyer you can know the answers applicable to your particular situation involving such important matter as child custody and visitation, child and spousal support and division of assets and debts.