If you're embroiled in a custody battle, you know how stressful—and expensive—it can be. You may also feel the best person to tell your side of the story is you.
Pro Se, meaning to argue on one's behalf, can be an appealing option, but success is highly dependent on the unique circumstances of a case. Here are some things to think about before embarking on self-representation.
Who Are You Up Against?
If the other parent of your children has hired counsel, they will have a sophisticated knowledge of the law, the courts, and how cases are adjudicated. A crash course probably can't stand up to years of practice.
Go to Court.
See what an actual hearing entails and get a sense of the questions the judge and the lawyers are asking. You should also contact the court clerk to determine exactly which documents you would need for your day in court. Also, it may sound shallow, but take note of what people are wearing and get a feel for what is appropriate. Be honest with yourself about what you know about navigating the system.
What's the Real Cost to You?
It is a good idea to reach out to family law practitioners in your area to get a ballpark estimate of what they will charge. When you weigh the options, calling on a professional will likely give you the best outcome and be cost-effective.
Think about how much time you will need to take for research and bear in mind a lawyer can do it quickly and much more effectively. What other things in your life would you have to put on the back burner to make time for that?
It may seem like a way to save money, but if you lose out on precious moments (now and later) with your children and have a case drag on, an appeal can be much more costly. Doing it right in the first place can preserve your money and your time.
Think About the Future
What if someday you want to pursue a job opportunity out of state? How different will your kids' needs and preferences be when they are teens and not toddlers? If your custody agreement does not include some provisions for the future, you might wind up back in court again sooner than you think, or find your hands tied by your amateur efforts. An experienced lawyer can advise you on what you should include in a custody agreement to protect you now and in the future.
Going it Alone Is a Big Risk
Acting on your own behalf in something as critical as child custody is a big risk. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have represented and counseled countless clients on this serious matter in key family courts in New Jersey.
If you have questions about the best way to achieve a successful outcome, call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686.