When Should You Hire a Child Custody Lawyer?
Breakups are hard enough when there are two people involved. But when kids are involved, you’re not just negotiating for yourself.
You’re negotiating for your role in your child’s life.
Custody battles are hard on families, especially as a parent trying to minimize discord for your children. While you may be wary of hiring a child custody lawyer in order to keep the peace with your ex, there are times when you can’t afford to show up to court without one. Here are a few circumstances when you need a child custody lawyer to ensure a positive outcome for yourself and your children.
Your Ex Has a Child Custody Lawyer
When you’re entering a custody battle, you need to level the playing field as much as possible.
The reality is that while you know your unique family situation, a child custody lawyer understands the law. If your ex has already retained an attorney, they have someone with a home-field advantage. Bringing your own attorney into the equation will ensure that your custody negotiations are realistic and balanced.
Your Case Got More Complicated
Some couples split amicably and agree on their terms early. But not every couple is lucky enough to stay that way. Once that happens, you need an attorney in the mix.
Let’s say, for example, that you and your ex agreed on a custody arrangement and your ex no longer agrees with it. Maybe your ex will try to convince the courts that you’re not fit to have the kids overnight and the court should revise the agreement.
In general, if you have any child custody questions, it’s best to talk to an attorney right away. And in any circumstance where the original agreement is abruptly revised, you need an attorney on hand to navigate rough waters.
Your Case Crosses Jurisdictions
A custody case can get complicated even if you and your ex live in the same town. But as complications go, a case where the two parties reside in two different jurisdictions is a whole different ballgame.
Once you and your ex no longer live in the same jurisdiction, you’re dealing with two different local legal systems. That means different judges, different prosecutors, the works.
A little known secret about attorneys is that they understand the power of networks, and all the best attorneys know the judges and prosecutors within their local legal circuit. That’s great news for you–it can often be the difference between a judge amenable to your story and a judge who’s already made up their mind before you walk in the door. But once you introduce two different jurisdictions, it can get hairy. An attorney is critical to ensuring it works out in your favor.
You Believe Your Children are in Danger
As a parent, your children are your first priority. If you have any reason to believe they may be in danger, that changes the stakes of your custody battle.
If you believe your kids are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 immediately. However, the long-term effort to keep your children safe requires the work of a skilled attorney.
Courts will treat a threat to a child’s safety as a serious concern, but keep in mind that a court won’t rush to permanent decisions based solely on allegations. A judge will investigate any allegations of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or threats of violence thoroughly to make the best determination for the child. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to ensure your child is safe, and an attorney will make sure you protect your child and strengthen your case at the same time.
Your Ex is Trying to Stop You from Seeing Your Children
As all separated parents know, the negotiation process can be taxing and exhausting even if both sides agree to share custody. But if your ex is refusing parenting time, including denying visits, rescheduling, or canceling last minute, your case becomes even more complicated.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply tell the judge that your ex is refusing access to your children. Judges make rulings on the basis of solid evidence, not allegations. Also, keep in mind that your ex and their attorney will do their level best to represent their side of the story in a positive light.
An attorney will help ensure that your side of the story is heard, and more importantly, is understood the right way.
You’re in Court-Mandated Classes or Treatment
Your one goal in a custody battle is to represent yourself as a standout parent. Unfortunately, if you’re in any sort of court-mandated classes or treatment, including anger management classes or substance abuse rehabilitation, you’re already at a disadvantage in the eyes of the court. The only realistic way to overcome that disadvantage is to have an attorney on your team.
The only exception is if your jurisdiction universally mandates that all parents in custody battles receive parenting classes (this is highly uncommon).
More Great Legal Tips
Hiring a child custody lawyer is no small decision. After all, they’re the person who’s going to represent you during an incredibly difficult time for your family. But when it’s your children’s future and wellbeing at stake, you wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best possible outcome.
If you need more advice on how to navigate tricky legal situations, make sure to check out our legal section for more great posts. And remember: while this might feel insurmountable right now, having the right legal advice on your side is the best investment you can make.