In a perfect world, you and the other parent of your child will be able to work together to create a child custody agreement that promotes the best for your child and works for both adults as well. Unfortunately, there are many issues that can arise causing conflict when trying to reach an agreement about your child’s custody.
At Renken Law Firm we understand how sensitive family legal matters involving children can be. Our team works with you every step of the way to help you reach a resolution that helps al parties involved. Listed below is some insight into when you may need to consider working with a lawyer for your custody dispute.
You might want to talk to a family law lawyer for any number of reasons, but here are seven that often arise in child custody situations:
- The Other Parent Has a Lawyer
When the other parent hires a lawyer and you don’t have one, the balance of power in negotiations shifts. Lawyers are skilled in state custody laws and can typically advocate for their clients far better than people without formal training can represent themselves. Lawyers also understand the court’s procedures and might be familiar with past orders the judge has made in similar cases.
Many people choose to hire an attorney once they know that the other parent is represented. If you think you can’t afford an attorney to represent you throughout the entire custody process, consider consulting with one to get advice on how to best represent your interests. (You can also ask that attorney whether the other parent might have to contribute to your attorneys’ fees if you hire a lawyer.)
- Your Ex Has Moved (or Plans to Move)
When your co-parent lives in or is planning to move to another city, state, or country, it can be a challenge to figure out which area’s laws apply to your child custody dispute. Even when the laws are similar, the logistics of physical custody and visitation can get complicated. A lawyer can help you navigate the potential legal differences, and can offer advice on how to manage the day-to-day realities of custody and visitation based on the lawyer’s experience dealing with similar situations.
- You (or Your Children) Have Experienced Abuse
In cases where there is recent or ongoing child abuse or domestic violence, handling negotiations yourself or going to mediation without a lawyer might not be the best path to a resolution. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, you might find help from your local “legal aid” organization. In most states, legal aid organizations reserve resources for cases that involve children and have a record of abuse, and can sometimes provide free or low-cost representation.
- You Have Some Skeletons in Your Closet
Fighting for custody of your child can get heated, and it’s possible that your co-parent might attempt to sway the decision by bringing up some skeletons in your closet. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, past convictions, or even a record of arrests, you might want to hire a lawyer to help you explain why this history shouldn’t have an effect on the custody decision.
- Your Co-Parent’s Attitude Has Changed
If your co-parent’s approach to custody discussions suddenly takes a turn for the worse, it might be time to talk to an attorney. For example, failing to return calls or emails about your child, coming up with excuses as to why a planned visit can’t happen, or showing a general unwillingness to consider what’s in the best interest of your child are all red flags warning that you might be heading into a custody battle.
- You Don’t Like the Outcome of Your Child Custody Evaluation
In some states, when a parent files a custody request, a court staff member conducts a custody evaluation before bringing the case to the judge.
The custody evaluation usually involves an employee interviewing each parent and the child to evaluate the best fit for the child. Once the interviews are complete, the evaluator sends a custody recommendation to the court. If necessary, the evaluator will also meet with other important individuals, like social workers, teachers, or family members. (For information about the process, read our article on child custody evaluations.)
If you’re happy with the outcome of the evaluation, you might be able to skip hiring a lawyer. However, if you disagree with any part of the recommendation, you’ll have to ask the judge to review it in a court hearing. Convincing a judge that the recommendation should be disregarded can be an uphill battle, though, so you might want to consider hiring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing.
- You Need to Change an Existing Custody Agreement
Sometimes a parent needs to modify an existing custody order—for example, the child’s school schedule changes or a parent is being relocated for work. When you and your co-parent can’t come to an agreement about proposed changes to a custody agreement, consider hiring an attorney to help you assert your position.
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Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.