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, PLLC 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, PLLC
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.