What is a Child Custody Lawyer?
A child custody lawyer is a family law lawyer specializing in representing parents in a legal battle for custody of their children. They help a parent get sole custody, negotiate joint custody, change custody arrangements, or get visitation rights.
What Do Child Custody Lawyers Do?
Child custody lawyers represent parents’ interests in child custody agreements, negotiations, mediations, and court hearings. In some cases, parents can easily agree on mutually beneficial schedules and arrangements for custody and visitation.
For all but these simplest cases, custody lawyers get involved. They do several things for their clients:
- File paperwork with the court, adhering to deadlines
- Gather information and witness statements to prove a parent’s fitness
- Gather evidence to prove the other parent is not fit
- Coach the parent on how to represent themselves in hearings and negotiations
- Prepare the parent’s testimony for hearings
- Strategize for gaining custody or coming to a beneficial agreement
- Represent the parent in a court hearing
- Assist with mediation or negotiation with the other parent and their lawyer
- Negotiate visitation rights
When Do I Need a Child Custody Lawyer?
While a lawyer is never a legal requirement in custody agreements, it’s a good idea to have someone representing your best interests. Even if you and the child’s other parent currently agree on arrangements, it’s a good idea to have a child custody lawyer assisting you from the beginning.
If you don’t hire a lawyer initially, you may end up in a situation where it makes sense to change your mind and find representation. It’s especially important to have a child custody lawyer in these and other situations that are complicated or contentious:
- The other parent has a lawyer to represent them.
- A simple, amicable agreement turns complicated, such as when the other parent changes their mind about certain details.
- Other aspects of your situation change significantly, such as a loss of income or a relocation.
- You and the other parent do not live near each other, especially in different states.
- You have concerns about your child’s safety.
- The other parent is actively trying to prevent you from having custody or visitation rights.
- As the father, you have reason to believe the court will give preference to the mother for no reason other than gender.
- There are things in your background that the other parent may use to deem you unfit. This may include criminal charges or substance abuse.
How Can a Child Custody Lawyer Help My Case?
You may feel as if your case is easy or if your right to your child’s custody is strong enough that you don’t need a lawyer. This may be true, but there may also be factors you can’t foresee that complicated your case. For the best outcome, work with a child custody lawyer. They can do several things to strengthen your case:
- Explain your rights
You may not even know what to ask for in a custody case. Instead of making assumptions, let an expert lawyer explain your rights and help you build a case.
- An unbiased opinion
You want the best for your child, but that doesn’t always come across in an emotionally-charged situation like a custody hearing. A lawyer shows the court that you have a third-party advocate for your child’s best interests.
- Find and present evidence
An experienced attorney knows what the court needs to see. They can help you find and present the evidence to prove your fitness as a parent or to show that the other parent’s home is not the best place for your child.
- Provide your side of the story
It’s your story, but you are not necessarily the best person to present it to a judge. A lawyer has experience standing up in court and can better give the judge your story in a clear, concise manner.
You may be able to avoid court and a judge deciding on custody if you and your ex can agree to terms that the judge will accept. A lawyer can help you negotiate an arrangement that works for everyone.
How Do I Choose the Right Child Custody Lawyer?
With custody on the line, this could be one of the most important legal decisions you make. You need the right person to fight for what’s best for your child. First and foremost, choose a lawyer with experience in child custody cases. This is a specialized area of the law. Navigating it requires expertise and experience.
Create a list of potential custody lawyers by asking trusted friends and family for referrals. Many people go through custody agreements, so someone you know may have a lawyer they used and like. Once you have a few lawyers or firms, sit down with each to ask questions:
- How long have you been working on child custody cases?
- Do you practice other areas of the law?
- How much time do you devote to child custody clients?
- Do you have time for my case?
- Will it be you handling my case or someone else in the firm?
- Do you foresee any major roadblocks in my case, and if so, how would you handle them?
- Do you think my goals are reasonable?
- What are your fees?
Choose a lawyer who has the time to handle your case, with the right experience, with positive references from clients, and who you feel comfortable working with.
A child custody lawyer is your best advocate when fighting for your child. Give your lawyer all the information they need to represent you and follow their advice for the best outcome.