Frequently Asked Questions

How can a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help me?

A criminal defense lawyer has many jobs. In addition to calling witnesses in your defense and cross-examining witnesses that the prosecution puts forward, your criminal defense attorney may also:

  • Work with you and the prosecutor to negotiate a "deal." These deals, also known as "plea bargains" can often reduce your potential sentence or eliminate some or all of the charges brought against you. However, prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate with defendants that represent themselves.
  • Figure out a good sentencing program for your situation. In the event that you are found guilty, your criminal defense attorney may be able to work your sentence in a way that would prevent you from winding back up in the criminal justice system. For instance, instead of going to prison for 10 months, your criminal defense attorney may suggest that you go to prison only for 6 months and spend the remaining 4 months in a drug treatment facility to help you with the drug problem that landed you in trouble in the first place.
  • Help you with the emotions that often go along with criminal trials. Defendants in criminal prosecutions often feel embarrassed, depressed, and fearful and can also suffer from low self-esteem.
  • Provide you with a reality check. Defense lawyers often know what is going on much better than you will during your criminal trial. Defense attorneys have the advantage of remaining objective throughout a proceeding and can offer insights into how the trial is actually going and what is likely to happen in the near future. These assessments and reality checks are often essential when a criminal defendant is trying to decide whether or not to accept a prosecutor's plea bargain.
  • Point out important legal rules and regulations that you would most likely never find on your own. Many rules and laws about criminal prosecutions are buried within regulations and laws, and even prior court opinions. For example, if you were to represent yourself, you may never know if the search that the police conducted of your apartment was lawful or not without understanding the many nuances and intricacies surrounding the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
  • Navigate your case through the state legal system where your case is being heard. In addition to written rules, such as the local rules of court, that must be obeyed and followed, there are often many "unwritten rules" that go along with each jurisdiction. For example, if only certain prosecutors are able to make and approve plea bargains, your criminal defense lawyer may save you time (and maybe even jail time) by talking to the right person the first time.
  • Explain about some of the "hidden costs" that come along with pleading guilty. Many people that represent themselves never think about the consequences of pleading guilty if it could lead to a shorter sentence. For example, if you plead guilty, you may find it very hard to find a job once you have completed your punishment.
  • Be able to spend more time and effort on a case than a defendant that chose to represent himself (after all, it is the attorney's job to represent you!).
  • Be able to more easily gather evidence and statements from witnesses that are going to be called by the prosecution. Many witnesses, understandably so, refuse to give statements or information to people that were allegedly involved in a crime, for fear of their own safety. However, these witnesses are often much more willing to talk to an attorney about their upcoming testimony.
  • Find and hire investigators that can investigate not only the alleged crime but also the witnesses that the prosecution is going to call to the stand. If these investigators can find evidence that would make a witness's testimony less believable, this could help your case tremendously.
  • Find and hire "expert witnesses" that may be able to present evidence that would tend to show your innocence or rebut evidence that the prosecution presents which would make the prosecution's case less credible.

 What are the legal steps to getting a divorce?

The Ferman Law Group has put together a packet that answers most questions regarding the divorce process and what you can expectClick here to download the pdf packet.

What information do I need to give my attorney to start the divorce procedure?

You will need to provide your attorney with the following information:

  •  your social security number
  •  your spouse's social security number
  •  your date of birth
  •  your spouses date of birth
  •  if you have children of the marriage- their birth certificates and social security numbers.

What financial information do I need to give my attorney to proceed with the divorce documents?

The Ferman law Group has a "To Do" List of all the financial documents that need to be gathered and submitted to your attorney. Click here to download the pdf list.

 How long does it take to get a divorce in Missouri?

In Missouri, the Court issues a "Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage," rather than a "divorce" decree, but often the terms are used interchangeably.

How long it takes to get a divorce in Missouri depends a lot on whether there are disagreements between the spouses regarding how the issues associated with the divorce are to be resolved. If there are no disputes, or if the other spouse chooses not to participate in the proceedings, a divorce can be granted in as little as 30-45 days; however, if there are disagreements which will require a hearing before a Judge, the process may take several months or more. In appropriate cases, there are several "alternative dispute resolution" possibilities available to parties in an attempt to avoid the need for a truly contested hearing, and your attorney can discuss with you what those alternatives are and whether, in your case, they might be of benefit to you.

How Can You Establish Paternity?

In Missouri, paternity of a child is presumed when:

  • a man and a child’s natural mother are married, or have been married, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after marriage ends due to death, annulment, or divorce​
  • before a child’s birth, a man and the child’s natural mother have tried to marry each other, even though marriage is invalid, and the child is born within 300 days of separation, or within 300 days of death, annulment, or divorce
  • after a child’s birth, a man and the child’s natural mother have married, or attempted to marry, and the man has acknowledged his paternity in writing and filed it with the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records, or he gives consent to be named as the father on the child’s birth certificate
  • the father is obligated to support the child under a voluntary written promise or court order, or
  • the father acknowledges paternity in an affidavit signed by the child’s natural mother and filed with bureau.

Paternity can also be established voluntarily, when the child’s parents agree on the identity of the child's father. A child's father can do any of the following to help ensure his paternity is confirmed:

  • file an affidavit stating he is the father
  • place his name on the child’s birth certificate
  • request a written admission or affidavit of paternity from the child’s mother, and file it with the court
  • pay the mother’s medical and hospital expenses relating to the pregnancy
  • support the child in a continuous and regular manner
  • live with the mother and child as a family, or
  • receive the child into his home and hold the child out as his natural child.

Finally, if the child's mother and presumed father don't agree about the identity of the child's father, paternity will have to be established involuntarily with genetic testing or through a court action.

When there is uncertainty or a disagreement about paternity, either parent can request genetic testing to confirm, or rule out, the father’s identity. These tests are available through the Missouri Family Services Division and may be paid for by the state.

Alternatively, either parent, the child or the state can take the case to court and ask a judge to determine who the child's father is. A paternity case can be filed any time before the child turns 18 - after that, it can be brought by the child up until he or she reaches age 21. After paternity is confirmed by affidavit or court order, the father’s name will be placed on the child’s birth certificate.

A paternity case may be filed in the circuit court in the county where the child lives, where the mother lives, or where the person believed to be the father lives. If the father is deceased, the case can be brought in the county where proceedings to settle his estate are taking place.

Why Should Either Parent Establish Paternity?

  • Establishing paternity gives children who are born out of wedlock the same rights to financial support and other benefits given to children born of a marriage.
  • Establishing paternity ensures that either parent can seek child support from the other. It will also allow a child to be placed on the father’s health insurance policy. When the father dies, paternity ensures that the child can inherit from the father and receive Social Security and Veteran’s benefits on the father's record, if such benefits are available.
  • If a father doesn’t take steps to acknowledge his paternity, he could lose important rights to custody or visitation with his child. He may even lose the right to receive notice of court proceedings regarding his child, including future proceedings to determine where the child will be placed and who will care for the child.