Whether you are the parent who is going to be receiving
child support or are the one who will likely be on the hook for paying child support,
the fact remains that the legal case that establishes child support will
be one of great importance. There is something about child support that
creates an emotional atmosphere- more than possession, access or
visitation of your children. Whether you are married to your child’s other
parent or you are not there are considerations that you need to make when
deciding to forego hiring an attorney in favor of representing yourself
in a child support case.
Ultimately the decision that you make is yours and yours alone. On behalf
of the attorneys with the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan I am going to provide you with some helpful information about why you
may not want to do so, however. You can utilize this information and decide
for yourself what is your, and your child’s, best interests.
Losing your child support case is the ultimate risk when representing yourself
in child support court
What exactly do I mean when I write about, “losing your child support
case”? This could mean a thousand different things to a thousand
different people so I probably ought to specify my thoughts on the subject.
Losing your child support case, to me, simply means that the outcome of
your case is not what you believe it should be based on the facts, circumstances
and evidence available to both you and the opposing party. If you lose
a case based on these factors then there was not much you could have done
to change it in all likelihood- short of settling your case before a trial.
On the other hand, if your outcome could have been different had you chosen
to hire an attorney that is a decision that could haunt you for a long time.
To be successful in a family law case you must be able to prove your case
to a judge. It’s as simple as that. No matter if you are the custodial
or non-custodial parent you have to not only prove elements of your case
but have evidence presented, offered and entered into the record for the
judge to consider. It is not as simple as dumping a stack of pay-stubs
on the judge’s lap and asking her to make a decision. The technical
requirements of a family law case are many and you are likely not trained
in this area unless you are an attorney. Even then, the minutiae of family
law cases are like any other area of the law in that they can mean the
difference between a positive and negative outcome.
Secondly, once you get past the technical aspects of your case you will
need to file the required documents and proceed as the courts require
you to. If you make a mistake in a pleading or leave out some required
information it could be that your opponent has grounds to have your case
dismissed or at the very least you could lose out on making arguments
that could potentially be helpful. These are simple mistakes to make and
without specialized legal knowledge you could find yourself in a position
where your case has been weakened before you even step foot in a courtroom.
To the victor go the spoils
If you are on the losing end of a child support case it is not uncommon
for a judge to award attorney’s fees and court costs to the winning
side. This means that you will end up paying for your own costs associated
with your case but also those of your opposing party. This is adding insult
to injury and is something that can be avoided.
Having your court costs paid for by the other side is only something that
is possible if you ask for it in your petition or Answer. If you do not
know to do this a judge cannot order this sort of relief even if the circumstances
of your case warrant it. Imagine winning your case and being in a position
where you could have your court costs and filing fees paid for by your
opponent but you lose out on that chance due to your not having asked
for it in your Petition. This is a very much avoidable mistake and one
that I would recommend you avoid by hiring an experienced family law attorney
for your child support case.
Factors to weigh when considering whether to hire an attorney for your
child support case
If you still are not convinced that it is in your best interests to hire
an attorney for your child support case, take a look at the following
factors. After reviewing each, apply them to your situation to determine
if you still think it is wise to not hire a lawyer.
Do you want legal advice? This is a simple and straightforward question to consider. In your heart
of hearts do you believe that you are in need of legal advice regarding
your case? Are you scratching your head when you look through the court’s
requirements on a pleading? Do you know what a pleading is? Are you having
to sneak time at your work station to draft your documents? If so you
probably know deep down that you need an attorney’s guidance.
Listen to your instincts on this one. You may be an incredibly intelligent
and capable person. All things being equal you could probably go about
your case just fine without a lawyer. However, all things are not equal.
You are not an attorney, you do not have the time to learn everything
you need to know about your case and your court and lastly your opponent
will likely hire an attorney. These are all circumstances that should
lead you to want to hire a lawyer for your case.
What are the facts and circumstances of your case? How complicated a case do you have? If you are the parent who will be
expected to pay child support how do you earn your monthly income? If
you have sources of income that are complicated (investment income, for
instance) and will need to have these complications explained to a judge
in a format that is easily digestible you may need to consider hiring
a family law attorney. The alternative means that you will need to explain
the factors to a judge after having had no experience whatsoever in courtroom
advocacy. That is a tough task that you would have in front of you.
What is your temperament like? This is a question that you can seek the advice of friends and family
on. If you are the type of person who gets upset easily, thrown off your
“game” by others frequently or just don’t do well communicating
with other people in public then you may want to consider hiring an attorney.
You will be communicating with your opponent’s attorney before the
trial so if you do not think yourself to be a competent negotiator you
are losing out on an opportunity to save time and money.
Likewise, if you know that you are not a calm and collected person you
can bet that your opponent knows that too. Attorneys are great at picking
at person to see if he or she will crack. You do not want to expose your
lack of poise to a judge. It will hurt your credibility in their eyes
and will keep you from presenting the best case for yourself.
Questions about representing yourself in a child support case? Contact
the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you could not tell by the tone of this blog post, I think the times
that are appropriate to represent yourself in a family law case of any
sort are few and far between. You will be best served by at least speaking to a
family law attorney about any questions you may have before making a decision for
yourself. Many of our clients began their case without an attorney only
to find that they needed to double back and hire us. This cost those folks
time and money.
To learn more about our office please
contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations and will always have an attorney
available to consult with you on any questions you may have.