There are many legal matters you can handle on your own, but a child custody fight is probably not one of them. First, the stakes are high for all involved—especially for the children. Second, State child custody laws and procedures are complex and it’s tough to handle complexity under stress. Mistakes may lead to confusing, expensive, and unhappy outcomes.
Finding a good lawyer. If you’re going to hire a family law attorney, take steps to find the best one you can. Here’s how to start your search:
- If you know any lawyers you like, ask if they know a good family lawyer (or whether they’re willing to ask around on your behalf).
- If you’re seeing a marriage counselor, ask her or him for lawyer recommendations.
- Check with people you know who may have hired a family lawyer in the past. A single recommendation may not mean much, but it could provide a starting point. If you hear the same name multiple times, put that name on your list of lawyers to call.
- If your personal contacts don’t pan out, turn to professional associations for family lawyers. For example, many skilled family law attorneys belong to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). You can also contact your state’s bar association for referrals.
How to get free or low-cost help with your child custody case. If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go it alone. Many lawyers volunteer their time to help families who need legal representation. And local law schools may run clinics where you can get help. Here are a few strategies for finding affordable assistance:
- Contact local legal aid offices.
- Check the website of your local family court for legal resources. (To find your court, visit our court information page and enter your zip code.)
- Contact local law schools to see if they operate a legal clinic.
Questions to ask a custody lawyer. Whether you’re hiring a lawyer or working with a volunteer, you should feel comfortable with your attorney and confident about their skills. Before you agree to work with a lawyer, set up an in-person interview. Even if you can’t pay, you need to know as much as you can about who you’ll be working with.
To see our suggested questions and get local resources, select your state from the list below.
You may also be interested in:
Know the basics of how to get custody of a child in your state, from the best interests of the child to child custody mediation and going to family court.
Understand the common factors your state’s judges use when making child custody decisions.
Know how joint physical custody and joint legal custody work in State so you can create the best parenting plan for your family.