“A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Attorney adage
A lawyer is not required for child custody cases, making it easy to eschew hiring legal representation if you are facing a child custody case. Lawyers can gum up the works, increase hostility between two parents and maybe even drive a permanent wedge between them. And of course, their fees are not usually cheap.
On the other side, an attorney can serve as a capable liaison between you and your ex-spouse, diffusing personal attacks each side may launch against each other, possibly torpedoing a potentially favorable ruling. Discussing your case with an attorney allows a knowledgeable person to step back, and take or even create a more professional tone on the situation. An experienced lawyer knows the legal and emotional land mines ahead, and can better prepare for “curveballs.”
They can help with filling out what can be complicated, time consuming and intimidating paperwork. Most judges probably prefer working with attorneys as opposed to two stressed out parents who frequently carry the likelihood of worsening an already contentious situation. Besides, you’ll have another person in your corner, one who understands your situation and can act in your best interest.
Also, if the case is complex, such as an interstate case, an attorney can prove a powerful asset.
But what about the cost?
That may be the number one reason people choose not to hire an attorney. But if you are short funds and would like a lawyer’s expertise, you do have options.
A parent may be eligible for low cost or free representation through family court (they should have a list of attorneys who provide pro bono work in family custody cases). One should note however, that the court could base free entitlement on the parent’s income. You can also ask for references from those who have been in your situation. Depending on where you live, the state bar association can provide you with recommendations for hiring the right attorney for you.
You CAN technically represent yourself. You can also operator on yourself. But even the best surgeon knows when to put down the knife. One cannot be both patient and an objective doctor at the same time. The professionals don’t do it, nor should you. Your future relationship with your kids is at stake. Don’t be a fool, don’t represent yourself, hire an attorney for your child custody case.
What would you add? Are there times when it makes sense to represent yourself without an attorney?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of Ammodramus via Wikimedia Commons.