Do I need a lawyer for a child custody dispute?

The law does not require a parent to have a lawyer for a child custody matter. Some parents, citing expense, consider forgoing a lawyer. Other parents believe that a lawyer only serves to escalate the ongoing hostilities that are present in such an emotional decision as a divorce or separation. And some just prefer to handle such personal arrangements as a divorce, separation and custody themselves.

Lawyers, however, do a better job of handling these types of matters. They are familiar with the law and the rules of the procedure. They may "know the judge," that is, they are familiar with the judge and his rulings and know the best approach to the situation at hand. They are also able to shield their client from his or her own anger in the proceedings. It is a rare person who can keep emotion out of an argument concerning children. Judges may interpret this anger or frustration as a negative attribute of the parent, which can been detrimental to any custody case. Lawyers often serve to prevent the escalation of hostilities both in and out of the courtroom. By eliminating or minimizing the hostility, negotiations between each parent are much more effective, which can lead to an agreement with out the help of the court.