Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Custody?
You should always consult a lawyer regarding your child custody case. That being said, do you need a lawyer for child custody?
Yes, it is possible to represent yourself in court for a child custody case, but it is not advisable. Without a child custody attorney, you may be disadvantaged due to a lack of knowledge of local custody laws, court processes, and procedures. Also, your emotional investment in the situation could affect your decision-making.
The benefits of self-representation include saving money, having control over the process, and knowing more about the situation.
Before deciding to represent yourself in court, it is important to consider the pros and cons.
What’s Involved in Child Custody Cases?
Child custody consider the right to make decision about the child in a legal way. It also include care and control of a child, including both physical and legal custody. Usually, the court prefer joint custody. But you can negotiate it that will be the best for your child.
Types of Child Custody
Four main types of child custody can be awarded to a guardian: physical, legal, joint, and sole.
Physical custody means where the child will stay. It can be awarded to either mother or father, or either both parents can have joint custody. In most cases, one parent (known as the custodial parent) is granted primary physical custody, while the other (known as the non-custodial parent) is given visitation rights.
When legal custody is granted, a parent is given the right to make important decisions regarding their child’s life, such as choosing which doctors they visit, what school they attend, and what religion they practice. In many cases, legal custody is shared by both parents, allowing them both to make decisions for the child’s well-being and upbringing.
If a court awards sole custody to a parent, that parent will have exclusive rights to their child’s physical and legal care. Sole custody is usually given when a judge believes one parent is unsuitable for providing quality child care.
Sharing parental rights through joint custody is often seen as the most desirable situation for a child, as it allows them to spend quality time with both parents. This type of custody can involve joint physical, legal, or both.
What to Expect in Court
How your custody case will proceed depends on several factors, including state law, court procedures where you filed if you and the other parent have a custody agreement, and when you submitted your parenting plan to the court.
Custody Order With an Agreement
If you have submitted a full custody agreement alongside your initial paperwork and all the relevant documents, it is likely you will not have to go through any other steps before the final hearing. The judge will likely review your paperwork at this hearing, ask a few questions, and then sign the custody order.
In some states, you won’t even need to attend court when requesting custody as part of an uncontested divorce; the judge will review the agreement and sign the order unless an issue arises.
If you have been ordered to attend a custody dispute mediation, you may be eligible for free or low-cost services through the court. During the mediation session, you are not obligated to come to any agreements, but if you and your co-parent can successfully do so, you might be able to skip the final hearing.
In some states, if you and your co-parent can reach an agreement in mediation, the judge might even sign off on it after the mediation session.
Initial Court Hearings or Conferences
If you and the other parent have not reached an agreement before or soon after filing for child custody, you will usually be required to attend an initial court hearing, conference, or other meetings to evaluate your case. This initial conference could be held by court personnel such as a commissioner or magistrate.
During these proceedings, judges may issue temporary custody orders, order a custody evaluation, or appoint a lawyer or guardian ad litem to advocate for the child or children.
Judges may also interview children to determine if they can express a preference about custody and visitation or get this information from court-appointed custody evaluators or other investigators.
Check out the Ultimate Guide To Child Custody to learn more about child custody court and how to win your case.
Should I Represent Myself in Child Custody Court?
Representing yourself in court can save you time and money on your child custody case if you know what you’re doing. Before you decide to represent yourself in court, you should consider the pros and cons of doing so.
Pros and Cons of Representing Yourself in Child Custody Court
There are major advantages and disadvantages to representing yourself in court. You can save money, however, it could cost you more in the long run from lack of expertise.
|Save money on legal fees||Legal errors are more expensive to correct|
|Control over quality and promptness of required legal work.||Time wasted from poor knowledge of court process and procedure|
|Knowledge of your situation makes you a better advocate for yourself.||You are too emotionally invested, making it hard to see what the right decision is|
When Should I Hire a Child Custody Lawyer
If you are asking yourself whether to hire a child custody lawyer or not, you should at least consult with one. There are some situations where hiring a lawyer for your child custody case is necessary.
Disagreement Between Spouses
If you and your spouse can’t agree on what’s in the best interest of your child, then you should hire a lawyer. A child custody lawyer can help you understand how the law can protect your child and your right to have what’s best for the child.
Concerns for Mental Health or Abuse
Dealing with child custody is already stressful. Having a parent that is mentally incapable of providing a safe and loving environment or is abusive can make it more stressful. There are procedures for proving mental instability or abuse from another parent.
A child custody lawyer can help you navigate this situation, and you shouldn’t try to represent yourself.
When You Feel Lost
There will be times during your child custody battle when you don’t know what to do or when to do it. Taking action without a plan in a child custody case is a great way to lose custody of your kids.
Contact a lawyer if you feel like the custody process is too much to handle.
Find an Affordable Child Custody Attorney
Good child custody lawyers aren’t cheap; however, who has $10K lying around for legal fees? Our network of child custody and family lawyers offers unbundled legal services and payment plans to help you get access to the legal representation you need to protect your child.
Unbundled Custody Attorneys
Unbundled child custody attorneys provide a limited scope of services, from guidance and document prep to only handling major portions of the child custody case, while you can handle the easy stuff like filing paperwork.
Payment Plan Attorneys
If you can’t afford to pay a huge upfront fee, our network of child custody attorneys can get started with a deposit and allow you to pay off your legal fees over time.
You should not try to handle child custody alone if you don’t have experience.