Over 70% of all family law litigants in Florida are unrepresented by counsel. Not everyone qualifies for Legal Aid and the overwhelmed organization just does not have the resources to help everyone who may need it. With the downturn in the economy, litigants strapped for cash are proceeding to court with only the help of Lord Google.
Family law is a specific area of law, but within family law you have different sub-specialties such as adoption, divorce, and then you have custody. Custody is extraordinarily heartbreaking.
The biggest casualty of a breakup is the child. Sometimes the breakup is amicable and the parents separate, making the child’s welfare their ultimate priority. However, a lot of times, a couple will hash out hurt feelings and lingering resentment over a custody battle. One parent will attempt to limit access or restrict visitation with a child. The results are devastating to the other parent and child.
I never recommend proceeding pro se when it comes to custody of your child. Should a parent lose the battle, the consequences are grave. However, I am a realist and know that many people cannot proceed to court without bankrupting themselves to the point of ending up homeless. After my husband left my stepson’s mother, she withheld all access to my stepson. My husband was devastated. He is a lifeguard who teaches kids how to swim. Every attorney he saw wanted at least $300/hour. The bills were daunting. Luckily my husband had excellent credit, so with the help of Discover Card the custody battle was funded. While I don’t recommend proceeding pro se, a parent needs to balance this consideration with the fact that there is life after litigation. This life includes providing your child with shelter, clothes, medical insurance, braces, etc. In short, assertively pursue your parental rights, but do not become overzealous to the point where you will not be able to provide emotionally or financially for your child post-trial. Find an attorney who understands your predicament and who you can afford. Remember, there are a lot of attorneys out there. Family law is a specialty and within family law there are sub-specialties. Some attorneys specialize in high asset divorces. When it comes to your time-sharing/custody dispute, I highly suggest finding an attorney who specializes in family law. Even if you cannot afford an attorney for your entire case, you can hire them on a limited basis. The attorney will at least steer you on the right track and let you know what you can expect.