If you are getting a divorce or separating as an unmarried couple, one of your primary concerns will be help with child custody issues. If you don’t have the funds to hire a private attorney, you might feel like it’s a lost cause, especially if your soon-to-be-ex does and can afford an attorney of their own. The good news is that you can reach an agreement when it comes to child custody if you keep in mind the best interests of your child. Check out these tips for getting help with child custody issues as they come up.
Start With Mediation
In some cases, mediation, which is usually less costly than hiring a private lawyer, can help both parents come to an agreement. Most parents want the other to be involved in the child’s life. There might be disagreements about where the child spends the majority of their time and which daycare center or school is used, but these can often be resolved through talking out the issues. Mediation is the way that both parties can come to agreements without resorting to a court trial, which is expensive and time-consuming for everyone.
A mediator is neutral and doesn’t give advice. They might ask questions that will lead both of you to consider different options. They might also separate you and go back and forth between you to keep emotional stress lower. Your local legal service might provide mediation services; if they don’t, they can refer you to someone who does. However, there are often times when the parents can’t agree and you will need outside help with child custody issues.
Work With Legal Aid or a Pro Bono Attorney
There are legal aid offices and attorneys who will work with clients at no cost. These are called pro bono attorneys. They generally provide services because they want to give back to the community. Sometimes they do it as a way to gain experience. Usually, they will take on only certain types of cases, so it’s important to make sure that you are a good match for them and vice-versa.
There are some considerations to keep in mind when looking for a pro bono attorney. The most important is that you feel comfortable with them. Keep in mind that although the attorney is working for no cost, that doesn’t mean you don’t get to speak up about your wants and needs. Be sure that they are familiar and experienced with the type of case you have and don’t hesitate to ask for references. This can be one way to get help with child custody cases, but might not be the best option.
Seek Help From an Advocacy Group
A legal advocacy group is often a one-stop resource for help with child custody issues and whatever else you need to get through your custody case. They can do parent evaluations, refer you to experts who can answer your questions, help you keep track of and compile your necessary paperwork, and so on. These groups are invested in helping mothers and fathers get fair custody arrangements that will be in the best interests of their children.
What an advocacy group does is help with child custody issues so you can represent yourself. They’ll help you prepare for your court appearance by letting you know what documents you need, what to wear for court, how to modify your behavior in times of high emotion, and who to go to if you need specialized services for yourself or your children. Because many people can avoid hiring private attorneys, they save thousands of dollars by getting help with child custody case through an advocacy group and learning how to represent themselves in their custody case. This is a great way to get help with child custody cases while also being affordable.
Tips for Avoiding Problems
Once you have found someone to help with child custody cases, there will be issues that come up. Perhaps one parent needs to travel and will miss a week’s worth of visitation. Maybe you won’t agree with the school that your ex has chosen. One way of avoiding these issues is to try your hardest to remain amicable and to discuss problems as they arise. Not every issue will need to be brought back to court. You might be able to modify your agreement with the help of a mediator, which will be faster and less expensive than going back to court.
It’s helpful to talk about upcoming events before they become an issue. For example, if your child is going to start kindergarten in a year, make sure you’re both on the same page about what school they’ll go to. This will give you more time to work out any disagreements before it’s time to register. If you plan to move out of state in six months, give your ex-spouse the heads-up and make sure that you modify your parenting plan or custody agreement in advance. Don’t try to spring it on your ex if at all possible.
Be careful not to badmouth your ex-spouse in front of your child. If tensions are high or the custody arrangement is not being honored, it might be tempting. Keep in mind that your ex is your child’s other parent and that your child will want to defend them. Also, in some cases, badmouthing your ex could be seen as an attempt to alienate them on behalf of your child. This could negatively impact your own custody or visitation. It’s better to not talk about the issue at all in front of your child.
Finally, talk to an advocacy group about whether you might be able to handle certain issues on your own. They can refer you to an attorney if you need one, but often they will be able to provide help with child custody and walk you through the process of continuing to represent yourself as custody issues arise until your child is an adult.
Going through a divorce or separation isn’t easy on anyone, least of all the children. Stay calm and try to find help that you can afford so you understand all of the issues and know what to do to represent yourself if necessary. Always remember that the goal is to meet your child’s best interest, even if that differs from what you want or expect. Work with your ex as much as you can to keep the situation amicable for your child’s sake; if that’s not possible, then make full use of any family law help you can get.