Monday, June 16, 2014

Why you should consult an attorney BEFORE you file for custody

Many clients call me and want to retain me for their upcoming court date to determine custody, visitation, child support, etc.  Very few clients, however, think to make that call BEFORE they file their petition or motion to amend custody.  Here's why you should talk with an attorney first.

1.  It's pretty basic but if you are intent on hiring a particular attorney, you will want to make sure that attorney is available for your court date.  While courts will sometimes allow for a continuance so that your attorney can appear in court, that is not always the case.  If you want a specific attorney, you need them to be involved at the beginning to make sure the court date is a date that are available.

2.  You need to file the right documents.  In the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court it may appear simple to fill out a motion to amend and you may think you don't need your attorney to help with that.  While most of the time the filing needs to be done by you, the client, you need to know what to put in that motion to amend.  Simply asking for a change in physical custody may not be enough.  You may need to move to amend legal custody as well.  You may or may not want to move to amend child support and visitation at the same time.  Consult with you attorney on what to file prior to actually filing the papers.  It will make the process simpler and clearer for you down the road.

3.  We need time to prepare.  Most of an attorney's work goes on "behind the scenes".  There are deadlines we have to file, such as sending out witness subpeonas (to ensure your witnesses attend court) by a certain deadline.  Perhaps there are discovery deadlines that may pass before you hire an attorney.  The more time you allow an attorney in advance to prepare for your case, the better case you will be able to present.  To hit this point home, at a certain point in each case, many attorneys will decline to represent you simply because they do not have adequate time to prepare a competent case for you.  You certainly do not want to be in a position to not have an attorney because you waited too late.

Depending on your arrangements, it may be slightly more expensive to hire an attorney at the very beginning, or it may be the same cost.  The result of your case, however, can vary significantly depending on what stage you bring an attorney in to represent you.  If you are thinking about filing or have filed a petition or motion to amend custody/visitation/child support and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or