Fighting for child custody can be incredibly difficult, which is why some people refer to it as a “child custody battle.”
While it’s typically done with legal advisers, some people prefer to go through it alone.
But can you file for custody without a lawyer? Indeed, it is doable. For various reasons, including financial viability, some parents opt to do this independently.
Although it’s feasible, it’s important to understand that fighting for child custody has advantages and disadvantages.
And it’s best to be aware of them before taking action.
Reasons for Filing for Custody Without a Lawyer
One of the most prevalent reasons why some parents choose to go through child custody proceedings without the assistance of a lawyer is a lack of financial resources.
While it is true that hiring a child custody lawyer can cost between $300 and $600 per hour, there are alternative options available to you if you are concerned about the possible expenses.
To find out your choices for getting legal aid, you can simple call the Legal Aid office and ask.
You can also browse for options for payment plans that best suit your circumstances.
Alternatively, you won’t need to argue for custody or hire a lawyer if you and your ex-partner can come to a mutually agreeable arrangement that is also in the best interests of the child.
Also read: Can You Withdraw from a Child Custody Case?
Challenges of Filing for Custody Without a Lawyer
You should be prepared for significant obstacles in the event that you choose to represent yourself in court. The following are some of the challenges you might run into:
- Time-consuming: Filing the paperwork might be difficult if you are unfamiliar with it, and learning the procedure can consume some time. You might need to take a break from your job or other obligations.
- Plenty of room for error: Despite your best efforts, there is always the potential that you will make a mistake. And there may be a price for these errors. Losing custody of or time with your child is one of them.
- Opportunities lost. There’s also the potential that you’ll miss out on certain chances or tactics that could help your case. When you don’t know where to look, it’s easy to miss out.
Benefits of Filing for Custody With a Lawyer
As was already discussed, making a mistake could cost you precious time with your child. Because you’ll be less likely to make mistakes, hiring a child custody lawyer will potentially cost less.
A lawyer can help you with the following tasks:
- Timely and accurate filing of documentation: If you want to do the paperwork yourself, it’s possible to find it time-consuming and overwhelming. An enormous burden can be lifted from the procedure by hiring a lawyer to handle it for you.
- Formulating a plan for the best course of action: Despite the fact that every situation is unique, you can still draw best practices from each one. Lawyers can aid you in this situation because of their expertise in this field. Your chances of obtaining custody will improve if a professional plans your case.
- Gathering evidence and presenting it in a way that supports your position: A good piece of evidence may not always be perceived by the judge in the same way that you do. Yet, a lawyer can decide whether or not a piece of evidence is admissible. Similar to character witnesses, offering unreliable evidence could do more harm than good.
- Briefing and preparing you for the judge’s challenging questions. There will be difficult questions to answer, and if you are weak of heart without someone to prepare you for them, you might fumble and damage the case. In these situations, a lawyer can assist you in anticipating these challenging inquiries and preparing you on how to competently respond to them.
When Is Getting a Lawyer Not Optional?
While it is feasible to file for custody on your own, there are some circumstances where hiring a lawyer is essential.
These situations include, but not be limited to:
- Abuse: It goes without saying that you should hire a lawyer if you or your child experiences abuse in order to ensure your protection.
- Power imbalance: If you feel like you are mentally not up to the task of facing your partner and their legal team.
- There is an ongoing legal dispute concurrently: You may have a separate matter in the Magistrates court that also requires representation.
Process of Filing for Custody Without a Lawyer
- Evaluate: It’s crucial to think about and confirm that you want to proceed along this path without legal representation. Remember that filing for custody without a lawyer involves substantial planning and investigation. It can take a lot of time and energy to learn the procedure. Think about whether you’ll have the time and resources necessary to complete these jobs. As your child’s custody is at risk, such a matter should not be taken lightly.
- Research: Do your research and familiarise yourself with the process, including any applicable regulations, before filling out any documents. Ensure the validity of your sources. You should also be aware of the documentation that must be prepared and submitted.
- Complete the forms: Make sure the form is completely filled out and error-free. Verify that you have not overlooked any details in order to avoid delay or additional work.
- File the forms: You can file the paperwork electronically via the Commonwealth Courts Portal. However, you also have the option to physically file the form at the registry.
- Be prepared for the next steps: Filling out the forms is merely the beginning of the process. It is advisable to plan out the following actions before going to mediation or court hearings. Act courteously and according to established protocol throughout the entire process.
Can You File for Custody Online?
Yes you can file for custody online through the Commonwealth Courts Portal, however, there are a few things to think about before submitting your application electronically.
Before filing for custody, it is important to understand what it will mean to you and your child.
To have parental responsibility means that you legally have the right to make decisions about the child.
In the event that the parents cannot come up with an arrangement for the child, either parent may request the Court’s assistance for a decision regarding the child’s overall well-being.
When a decision is made, the Court will issue a parenting order. Each person who is subject to a parenting order must abide by it.
A parenting order can address any of these factors:
- which parent will the child live with
- the amount of time each parent (or other individuals, such as grandparents) is permitted to spend with a minor
- distribution of parental responsibility
- communication agreements
- other factors that may affect the welfare and development of the child.
These days, a parent can file for custody online instead of going to the registry to do it.
All you need to do is download the appropriate form and electronically file it at the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
How Can You File for Custody Online?
Before filling out the forms, there are a few steps worth taking to make the process as orderly as possible.
Seek legal advice
Child custody is a situation in which you should arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. And it is always prudent to consult a child custody lawyer before taking action. You will have a thorough understanding of your rights and responsibilities after consulting an expert. In addition, knowing how the law applies to your case is of great assistance.
Negotiate with the other parent
It is still recommended, if possible, to mediate with the other party and reach an amicable resolution. With the well-being of the child in mind, each parent can present specific options and see if the other can agree or at least compromise. However, if the parties are unable to agree on child custody, you may proceed to the next step.
Understanding the law
A lawyer can assist you in understanding the law, particularly the provisions that pertain to your case. You can strengthen your understanding by asking your attorney for credible resources where you can conduct additional research and immerse yourself in the laws surrounding your situation.
Filling Out the forms
After seeking legal advice and having a good grasp of the applicable laws, you can now file for custody online. You can find the form here and complete it. Take time in making sure that this is accurately done to avoid delays and issues.
Electronically Filing the Form
After completion, you can submit the form electronically through the Commonwealth Courts Portal. There is also a live chat feature on the website to assist you with any questions or concerns regarding the electronic filing of the form. You will then be informed of the following steps.
After filing online for custody, additional steps will be taken to ensure that the child receives proper care and upbringing. These include serving a copy of the application to the other parent and attending court hearings. You can anticipate these steps and devise suitable strategies to strengthen your case and obtain custody.
Alternatively, if you and the other party reach an acceptable agreement, you can formalise and make it binding by requesting consent orders.
To answer the question, can you file for custody without a lawyer? Yes, you can but that does not mean that you should.
You should maintain your composure and remember that you are acting in your child’s best interests, no matter how challenging the situation becomes.
If you change your mind and decide it’s time to hire a lawyer, that’s perfectly acceptable; there’s no reason to feel uncomfortable about it.
Director of Melbourne Family Lawyers, Hayder manages the practice and oversees the running of all of the files in the practice. Hayder has an astute eye for case strategy and running particularly complex matters in the family law system.