Representing Yourself in a Missouri Divorce (Part 3 of 4)

By March 6, 2012Divorce
By Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. posted in Divorce on Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

By Ryan L. Munro

After we received a comment to one of our blogs regarding self-representation in a divorce case, it seemed necessary not just to address the possibility of representing yourself, but also the wisdom of doing so. Please follow the links at the bottom of this post to review the whole article.

While you are not required to hire an attorney to obtain a divorce in Missouri, the question of whether the suggestion posted in the comment was good advice should not be answered with a simple Yes or No. Here are just a few reasons why: (1) “Competently researching the law” is not always that simple; (2) “Filling in the blanks correctly” is not always that easy; and (3) there is a reason for the old adage: He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

In this part we will take a look at why “Filling in the blanks correctly” on the form documents supplied by the courts is not always as easy as checking a box or filling in a blank. If you followed this link we provided in part one to www.selfrepresent.mo.gov and looked at all the forms that are required to be filed, if you think that you are ready to go, ask yourself two questions before checking a box:

  1. Do you understand the lega meaning of every word? This is more than merely understanding the everyday definition. Do you know what “Joint Physical Custody” means to the court? Since the court is where you will go to enforce the orders contained in your divorce decree, it is important to know how the court understands certain terms, as it may drastically affect your rights.
  2. Does each provision fit my situation perfectly? Sometimes the preprinted terms on the forms will work, but most of the time the terms need to be changed to fit perfectly. Will the court let you change the words on the form? Can they be crossed out? Which parts of the forms are required to satisfy a legal requirement and which parts are more flexible? Do you have to check a box at all, if you agreed to something else?

Just checking a box can have serious consequences. You should know what the consequences are before you grab a pen. Determining the consequences of the language you agree to is what an experienced family law attorney can do for you.

In the final part of this series, we will discuss what wisdom can be gleaned from the adage: He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Please follow the links below to review each part of this post.

Links :      The Original Comment

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Disclaimer

Ryan L. Munro

Ryan L. Munro

A member of the Firm's Family Law Group, attorney Ryan Munro is a certified guardian ad litem and handles cases involving division of property, spousal support, paternity, and child custody. He is also a member of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association, the Missouri Bar, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and the St. Louis County Bar Association.

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