A custody case is bad enough, but preparing to face a custody case when you know full well you don’t have the money to hire an attorney is gut wrenching, especially if you know your child’s father has hired an attorney to represent him in court.
It’s intimidating. If you’ve ever been to court before (even on a different kind of issue, like a traffic violation), you know that it’s not the kindest, most user friendly venue imaginable. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Clerks don’t know the answers to your questions or don’t care enough to even try to get them answered. Judges are aloof and unapproachable, and seem to censor your every thought to the point where you’re not even sure what to say. You feel like a bad person for even being there, like the deck is somehow stacked against you before you even open your mouth and plead your case.
And that’s just for a traffic offense! In a custody case, it’s even worse. You know that, whatever happens, your kids and their well being is at stake. So what do you do? How do you prepare to face the court—and your child’s father, along with his attorney?
If you really don’t have the money to hire an attorney, you may think you’re up the creek without a paddle. Though you would probably prefer if you could just hire someone to handle it for you, I understand that it’s not always an option—no matter how much you might wish that it were. If you can’t afford an attorney, there’s no sense beating yourself up about it. The best thing you can do now is to figure out what your options are if you can’t afford to hire an attorney.
Awhile back, I wrote an article on pro bono legal services for women facing custody cases. If you’re hoping to find pro bono representation (though, before you leave this page for that one, I have to tell you that it’s super, super rare), you may want to check it out.
As you can probably imagine, there aren’t a ton of pro bono resources out there—no matter how deserving you may be. In fact, most of the time, it’s really not a question of being deserving. Places like Legal Aid can’t really financially bear the burden of tons of litigated cases; there just aren’t enough resources going around to do it. Legal Aid often takes uncontested cases instead (cases where the parties can reach an agreement, in other words) because they can provide more legal assistance to more families that way. Contested cases (cases where an agreement can’t be reached and a judge has to make the ultimate decision) cost more in attorney time and resources, so they are more difficult to take on with an already stressed to the limit budget and competent but overworked (and underpaid!) attorneys.
Aside from pro bono, there aren’t a LOT of other resources, but there is one that I know of—and that I think could really help you, in your current situation. Court cases are difficult, but not impossible, and it’s definitely possible that you could handle it yourself, especially at the juvenile court level.
That’s why we created Custody Bootcamp for Moms. It’s an intense, all day seminar designed to help teach Virginia moms everything they need to know to represent themselves in custody, visitation, and support cases at the juvenile court level.
What will you learn at Custody Bootcamp for Moms?
At Custody Bootcamp for Moms, you’ll learn all about how to manage your own case at the juvenile court level, including:
• The ten, all important, super critical “best interests of the child” factors that you HAVE to discuss and the judge has to listen to (including what the text of the law says and what the judge is looking for when it comes to your case);
• What to wear and when to sit and stand in the courtroom;
• How to address the judge
• How to handle it when your child’s father wants to bring up your previous bad acts (like the fact that you smoked pot);
• Best practices for working with custody evaluators and guardians ad litem;
• How to prepare a trial notebook;
• How to make opening and closing arguments;
• How to question and cross examine witnesses;
• How to get your evidence in and keep his evidence out; and
• So much more!
The seminar is prepared and taught by our own Kristen Hofheimer, with Caitlin Walters. It begins at 8:30 in the morning, and lasts until the last woman’s last question is answered—so, by the time you walk out of the doors, you’ll know every answer to every question you wanted answered before you walked into the courtroom.
Our goal? That you’ll walk into the courtroom on the day of your hearing with your head held high, your trial notebook prepared, and your confidence soaring.
Interested in learning more, but not quite ready to commit to Custody Bootcamp for Moms?
Not a problem. I know how you feel; I’m a researcher, too, especially when it comes to making big decisions like this!
For more information about how custody cases work in Virginia, request a free copy of our book, “The Woman’s Custody Survival Guide.” You’ll get a great overview about how custody cases work and what you need to know in Virginia. If you’re considering Custody Bootcamp for Moms, it’s a great place to start—you’ll already be heads and tails beyond everyone else if you’ve read the book and come in on the day of the seminar ready to discuss and ask questions. Plus, it’s free, and when you sign up, we’ll send you an email asking if you’d like to join in on our custody e-course, too—so that’s tons of free information, all written and created for you by one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys.
If you’re worried about representing yourself, you’re not alone there, either. Wondering whether you can do it? Whether you can remember everything? Whether you even have the nerve? You’re definitely not the only one! For more information, request a copy of our free report, “Can I really represent myself in a custody case?” It was pretty much written just for you!
Want to register for Custody Bootcamp for Moms?
Our next Custody Bootcamp for Moms seminar will be held on Saturday, July 23rd at our Virginia Beach office location in the Hilltop West Executive Center.
The cost to attend is just $197 (which is less than the cost of an hour with a moderately priced local attorney) and you can register to attend here.
If you’re facing a custody case in Virginia, Custody Bootcamp for Moms will help prepare you! For more information, to schedule an appointment, or to request a copy of our custody book, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.