There are many people who, through no fault of their own, simply do not have the resources available to afford an attorney. Even if you do have some resources available, do understand that there are ways to cut your costs without losing the benefit of quality legal representation. You can represent yourself. This is often called “pro-se” or “pro-per” in legalese.
Realize that you should only petition for a modification of custody due to some substantive reason. The court does not look kindly upon frivolous petitions with motivations that do not rise to a level of significance.
The following reasons are some which may necessitate a modification to an existing custody order (reasons applicable to both parents):
- Job change which may significantly affect the daily routine.
- Change of residence or relocation.
- Arrest or incarceration of a parent.
- A serious illness affecting parenting ability.
- Voluntary change in custody.
The above examples don’t necessarily require a custody change on emergent status, but depending upon the circumstances, you may want to requests the hearing be scheduled expeditiously.
While laws and processes vary from state-to-state, you need not be represented by an attorney to take care of any portion of your custody matter. When it comes to filing petitions, in this case – for a custody modification, the forms are generally easy to complete. Explanations which justify the petition filing are simply attached with the petition and filed with your local courthouse authority, such as a prothonotary or other appropriate clerk of courts.
The clerk will check to make sure that the paperwork has been completed properly and affix the court seal to the bottom of the petition. From there, you have to follow the appropriate rules of service to make sure that the other parent has been notified of the modification and can appear for the hearing.
If the modification is mutually agreeable, a hearing may not be necessary. Depending upon the rules in your jurisdiction, both parents can sign-off on a new parenting plan, file the petition to modify custody, and expect that the judge will amend the existing custody order without a hearing and barring any unforeseen circumstances.
As always – consider consulting with an attorney regarding your circumstances. Some offer free consultations. At least you can gain a little insight as to whether or not your circumstances justify a modification to child custody.
Petitions for modification to child custody are easily found at one of more of the following locations: your local law library, the office of your court’s clerk, and even on the website for the court with jurisdiction over your case.
“Move-away” situations require a higher level of discussion and we will cover that in a future article.