You may be wondering if it’s better to hire an attorney or save money and handle your custody case on your own. Custody issues can be complicated, and unrepresented spouses aren’t always aware of their legal rights. Even if you and your spouse have reached a custody agreement, you may want to hire a lawyer who make sure your rights are protected under the agreement. So how do you know if you need an attorney and can you even afford one?
When You Need an Attorney in a Custody Case
Certain divorces are more complicated than others. However, you almost always need an attorney if you and your spouse are fighting over child custody. Many factors go into a custody decision. An attorney can alleviate some of your stress during a custody battle and put you at ease.
An experienced divorce attorney will come up with a strategy for your case. With a lawyer on your side, you won’t have to worry about understanding procedural rules or meeting case deadlines – that’s your attorney’s job. If you're like most divorcing parents, you're having some anxiety over custody issues; hiring an experienced professional to handle your case and knowing that you're in good hands can help alleviate some of your concerns.
Finding an Affordable Attorney
Hiring an experienced attorney doesn’t have to deplete your bank account. Many state bars offer free self-help divorce clinics for spouses involved in custody battles. Additionally, every state operates one or more legal aid offices providing free legal services to needy individuals. If you have been a victim of domestic violence, serve(d) in the military, or have very limited income, you may qualify for free legal services. Contact your local legal aid office to learn more.
Although self-help forms and online resources are increasingly available, only an experienced family law attorney will understand certain legal nuances. If you want to know your legal rights and the impact of a custody decision on those rights, you need to seek out a local family law attorney for advice.
Mediating Custody Issues
Many divorcing couples have success mediating custody disputes. Although a mediator can’t give you or your spouse legal advice about your custody case, the mediator can help you resolve your custody battle. An attorney-mediator acts as a neutral third-party and will help spouses reach a compromise, if possible.
Generally, mediators can advise you on basic meanings of physical and legal custody and will discuss all the issues that need to be decided as part of your custody case. The mediator’s role stops at giving you legal advice about how a potential agreement will impact your custody rights now and in the future. You can, and probably should, hire your own attorney to guide you through mediation and ensure any custody agreement would serve both your best interests and your child’s. Resolving custody on your terms, when possible, is always better than leaving matters up to chance at trial.
Custody issues are usually the most difficult in a divorce – both for a judge to resolve and for parents fighting over custody. An experienced family law attorney will know how to protect your interests as well as understand the issues to highlight in your custody case. If you have questions about custody, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.