When parents split up, a child custody agreement becomes necessary. Even in the most amicable breakups, reaching a fair arrangement can be complicated, especially if you are unfamiliar with the court system and processes required to establish a child custody agreement. Most parents hire a child custody or family lawyer to handle these arrangements. A few choose to file on their own, a process formally known as pro se.
Pro se is Latin for “for oneself” or “on one's own behalf.” Filing for custody pro se means you are representing yourself in court. Everyone is entitled to self-representation, but you should enter into it with caution. Before filing for custody pro se in New Jersey, you should understand how the process works and know the advantages and disadvantages of pro se representation in these cases.
Considerations Before Filing for Custody Pro Se
- Does your ex have a child custody lawyer? A child custody lawyer has specific knowledge that someone unfamiliar with family law lacks. If your ex has a lawyer, they are in a more advantageous position.
- Can you afford a child custody lawyer? When determining whether a child custody lawyer is worth the cost, you should also factor in the amount of time you'll need to gather the documents needed, become familiar with the court process, and manage the negotiations. Consider the value of your own time and try to see if you'll need to take vacation or personal days to manage the filing.
- Do I understand the court process? Court hearings and procedures can be confusing if you're not an attorney or someone familiar with the family court process. If you're considering pro se representation, you may want to attend a few hearings before filing so you'll know what to expect.
- Do I know what court documents are required? Lega paperwork is an animal all its own. The sheer volume of paperwork can be overwhelming. Spend some time before deciding if you want to handle it on your own reviewing the family law documents involved. Not only will this educate you on the process, it'll also help you determine if filing pro se is a feasible option for you.
- Will my custody arrangement be difficult to get? Of course, you'll want to have a good idea of what kind of custody arrangement you want. But you should also consider if it is also in the child's best interest and is something the other parent is likely to agree to. If there is any doubt, consider consulting with a child custody lawyer.
Hire a New Jersey Child Custody Lawyer
Of course, you have the right to represent yourself in a child custody arrangement. But be aware that navigating the court system and tracking down the necessary documentation can be confusing for individuals not well-versed in court proceedings. For this reason, it may be helpful to retain the services of a child custody attorney to handle the job for you.
If you're working on a child custody agreement with your former spouse and need guidance, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.