Question: I’m trying to decide if I need a lawyer or not. As of right now, we are agreeing on everything and it should remain uncontested. She has already hired a lawyer and is paying for everything.
I was going to have her lawyer draw everything up then I was going to hire someone just to look it over. I’m trying to avoid more debt, which my wife has given me a lot of already. Is this really stupid on my part?
I sincerely discourage you from not using an attorney – divorces are complicated, even if you think you know the extent of your marital property, your rights and what is a “good” outcome in the case. An attorney can properly advise you about your rights in Missouri, which you are not expected to know but the judge will expect you to know if you represent yourself in court, about the tax implications of your property awards, about the most efficient ways to clear up title to land, to refinance mortgages, to plan your estate, to plan for your incapacity, etc., after divorce. Would you perform your own surgery? Probably not. A divorce is a surgery from your spouse – a legal separation of the bonds of matrimony and all of the property rights that tag along with it.
If nothing else, you should have an attorney thoroughly review any paperwork before you sign it. It is good that you and your wife have settled, but her attorney has a duty to protect her interests (and draft the paperwork accordingly), not yours. Subtle word variations could spell disaster, such as an agreement to “assume” a mortgage rather than take property “subject to” a mortgage, or an order to divide “your retirement account” rather an order to divide “the marital share” of your retirement account. Worse yet, you cannot come back to court saying, “I did not understand what that meant” later because, as the phrase goes, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and you sign at your peril.”
Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Missouri. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parties in child support cases do. Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys located in Missouri.
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.