A family law attorney is an expert in legal matters related to marriage, divorce, child custody, adoption and other relationships. They help clients resolve these matters through negotiating, mediation and legal action.
Family laws vary from state to state, and the process can be long and complicated. If you are in a family law case, it is often best to work with an experienced attorney near you.
Representing yourself in court is called pro se, meaning “on one’s own behalf.” It can be a good option for some cases. However, it’s important to do your research and understand the risks before choosing this route.
Self-representation is a common option in family law cases, especially when parents are going through a divorce or child custody dispute. It can be challenging and frustrating, but it is a necessary part of the legal process.
There are several websites and resources on the Internet that can help you understand your rights, what to expect in court, and what steps to take next. These include government sites, lawyers’ sites with Q&A sections, and blogs written by attorneys. Be sure to check each website for reliability before using it.
In some Family Court proceedings, people who cannot afford to hire private counsel are entitled to the help of a court-appointed attorney. This should be requested from the judge or referee assigned to hear your case at the earliest possible opportunity.
In contested divorce and custody cases, the court may appoint a lawyer for your child (AFC). The AFC reports your child’s wishes about custody to the Court and often assists in settling custody arrangements more quickly.
Likewise, in cases where parents are charged with child abuse or a child is removed from their home to foster care, a court-appointed guardian ad litem can help the judge express the best interests of your child.
In California, state leaders boosted the pay of Family Court lawyers last year, hoping to reduce their caseloads and improve children’s access to attorneys. But the number of attorneys who want to represent kids has declined by 30%, a senior administrative judge told lawmakers in January, and caseloads are still rising.
Negotiated Settlement Agreements
Negotiated settlement agreements are common in matrimonial and family law cases because they allow the parties to resolve issues of property distribution, child custody, spousal support, and more. In a negotiated settlement, the parties work with their attorneys to reach an agreement that is customized to fit their unique circumstances.
If you are negotiating a settlement agreement, you should always get legal advice from an attorney before you sign it. This will help ensure that you are fully protected during the negotiation process.
Most employers offer to pay some of the cost of hiring a lawyer to assist with negotiations. This is usually not required by law, but it can be a useful way to secure additional legal services that may help you achieve a better settlement.
Court Service Centers
The legal aid system in New York is struggling to provide quality mandated family law representation. As the 2006 Status of Indigent Defense in New York: A Study for Chief Judge Kaye’s Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, Final Report pointed out, family court mandated legal representation suffers from an uneven patchwork of quality across the state.
The Office for Justice Initiatives works closely with counties and legal services providers to help them improve the quality of their mandated family court representation. This includes working with legal services providers to develop training and technical assistance materials for attorneys providing mandated family court representation, evaluating the effectiveness of legal service programs, and identifying best practices for high quality family court mandated representation.
The Office for Justice Initiatives also provides funding and support to assist self-represented litigants navigate the court system. This includes providing information about court rules and procedures, assisting with court forms, and connecting you with community resources.