Should You Represent Yourself in a Las Vegas Child Custody Case?
The State of Nevada does not require a parent to have legal representation in a child custody case. Does that mean you should represent yourself in a Las Vegas custody case? There are a number of factors that should influence that decision. You should carefully consider all of them before deciding if you should represent yourself, especially because whether you have a lawyer may affect the outcome of the case.
Nevada Custody Laws
If you consider representing yourself in a custody case, the first question to ask yourself is whether you fully understand Nevada custody laws. The judge applies the provisions of complex laws in deciding the outcome of a custody case. If you do not know how the laws apply to your situation, representing yourself may not be a good idea.
The primary concern of the court in any custody case is determining what is in the best interests of the child, not what is in the best interests of the parents. As a parent, you know what is in your child’s best interests, but state law provides that the judge should apply an extensive list of specific, detailed factors to determine the child’s best interests. The factors affect the child’s well-being, emotional stability, and home environment. Those aspects must be addressed by the parties and the judge in the court proceeding.
Nevada custody laws distinguish between physical custody and legal custody. Both types of custody are determined in a custody case. So, in addition to demonstrating what is in a child’s best interests, parents need to distinguish between physical and legal custody in presenting a custody case to the judge.
Child custody and child support are completely separate issues under Nevada law. However, decisions in a custody case often affect child support. It is important to understand the support implications of a court decision in a custody case.
After a court issues a custody order, both parents must comply with all the terms of the court order. If either parent violates a custody order, there are serious legal consequences. When you have legal representation in a custody case, your attorney makes certain that you understand all the implications of the judge’s decisions in a case, even before the court enters the order.
Child Custody Process and Procedures
Custody matters follow a detailed legal process. The court proceedings are subject to specific rules of procedure and conduct. If you represent yourself and do not follow the proper process — which includes preparing and filing specific legal documents — or do not understand courtroom procedure, that lack of knowledge can jeopardize the outcome of your case.
An experienced family law attorney understands both the substantive and procedural requirements that apply to a child custody case. If you consider representing yourself, you need to make certain that you also have a full understanding of the legal process and courtroom procedures.
Parental Agreement in a Custody Case
Many custody cases are resolved when the parents reach an agreement on the custody issues. Getting to that point can be difficult, particularly if you do not have a lawyer advocating for you in the negotiations with the other parent. That is especially true if the other parent has professional legal representation.
If you are involved in a custody case where the other parent is represented by a lawyer, you should also have legal counsel. Your lawyer protects your interests in negotiations and advocates on your behalf. If the case goes to mediation, an attorney also advises you on the mediation process and assists you with the process.
Even if you and the other parent agree on custody terms, it is advisable to have your own lawyer review the custody agreement before you sign it. That is the best way to make certain you understand all the terms of the agreement before the agreement is filed with the court. Misunderstandings can create serious problems (including violation of the court order) after a custody order is entered by the court.
Free Self-Help Resources
If you consider representing yourself in a custody matter, you should take advantage of the wealth of self-help resources that are available. Many family courts publish extensive information about the laws and procedures that apply to family law matters. You can use these resources to learn what to expect in a custody case, before you make a final decision about how to proceed.
One of the most important self-help resources is a free consultation with a lawyer. Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten offers a free initial consultation on domestic relations issues, including child custody and support. Talking with a knowledgeable lawyer is one of the most important steps you should take before you decide whether to represent yourself in a custody case, especially since you can discuss your situation with a professional with no cost or obligation.
How an Attorney Helps in a Custody Case
When you have legal representation in a custody matter, your lawyer does much more than apply the law to your case, file the right documents, and follow the required procedures. Your lawyer protects your interests and legal rights and advocates on your behalf to the other party and to the court. Your lawyer also explains your options throughout the process and provides professional guidance to help you make decisions about how to proceed.
Custody cases are always emotional and stressful. But your case needs to be presented to the court in a professional manner, without allowing emotion to affect compliance with the laws and procedure. An attorney provides critical objective moral and emotional support, in addition to guiding you step by step through the process. Having a strong professional on your side in a custody case can make a significant difference in your ability to make the right decisions for your family and in the outcome of the case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Las Vegas Child Custody Lawyer
Experienced Las Vegas custody lawyer Joseph Gersten helps clients with all types of family law matters, including child custody. He approaches every case with compassion and dedication to protecting the interests and rights of the client. If you consider representing yourself in a custody matter, we encourage you to take the time to talk with us without a charge or obligation before you make a decision.
The Gersten Law Firm serves clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. Call us at 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.