Think you can't afford an attorney? Think again. If you're involved in any kind of extended or contested custody litigation, you need an attorney.
Not just any attorney- you need a competent and experienced attorney. Unfortunately, attorneys do not work for free, in fact, the better the attorney is, the more expensive he or she is likely to be.
When it comes to paying your attorney, keep in mind that a normal retainer is on the order of $1500.00 to $2000.00, unless your case is very involved or is an interstate case. The lower you can make this initial retainer the better. Don't be afraid to bargain a little.
If you cannot come up with the full amount in cash for the retainer, consider your options:
Use your existing credit cards to charge the retainer. This may drive the card balance(s) up to the limit, but you can pay it back in relatively small monthly installments until you can clear the debt.
Consider applying for an extra card or two. If you decide to accept an offer for more than one card it's best to do so at the same time so the credit checks are done as close together as possible. Credit card offers often come in the mail, in fact, as soon as your name appears on any court document related to a divorce, you'll get several offers from various credit companies. Your name and address is sold on a "divorce related" mailing list from the county court in most cases.
Many cards have a very low initial rate that then increases after 6 or 9 months. Take advantage of one of these cards, and plan to either pay off the balance or transfer it to another card before the rate increases to the higher figure.
Look into paying your attorney by trading services. Paint his house, fix his PC, build her a web site, whatever he or she needs to have done that you can do. Some attorneys are open to the idea of trading services, others are not.
Sell off all the useless junk you have that you don't need. Remember that in most states you are not supposed to sell off or dispose of communal marital property once you're legally separated.
Cash in savings bonds, insurance policies, coin collections, etc. Again, you are not supposed to sell communal marital property once you're legally separated, but before the separation has become legal, you (or your spouse) may do whatever you like with it. The fact is that once the money has been spent (paying an attorney, for example) it's very hard for anyone (like a spouse) to get it back.
As above, until the separation becomes legal, your 401K or retirement plan funds (if any) are yours to do with as you see fit. Most plans have provisions for emergency withdrawals, but be prepared to pay a hefty percentage in early-withdrawal penalties.