Custody when you cant afford an attorney

Lisa - posted on 09/03/2015 ( 4 moms have responded )

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I am a single mom of a 7 year old daughter, who has never lived with anyone but me
(her father is deceased) I just found out that my mother is taking me to court for custody. She has a very well known attorney, and I can not afford one. I have called over 60 attorneys and legal agencies, and when they find out that I dont have $2000, or that my mother is a court reporter in our county, no one is willing to help me. I have made some decisions in my life that were not the best, but none that affected my daughter. She is a perfect student, never misses school, always on time; well taken care of, clothed and fed. I participate in everything at school and we are involved in church. Can anyone advise me in how to fight this? My daughter, who loves school, is now afraid to leave my house.i have found "file it yourself" forms for filing for custody, but no forms related to responding, when someone else has filed. I was told by an attorney, that if i was a really crappy mother, and Social Services was petitioning for custody, i would be entitled to a court appointed attorney......but since i am only being accused of being a semi-crappy mother, I am entitled to nothing. NC makes no sense to me.

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Chels - posted on 09/03/2015

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Lisa, do you guys have legal aid there? When I got custody of my son I was extremely young, didn't have money, and was very confused on the whole system. In most cases the court is not going to want to take children away from their mothers/families unless it is in the sole best interest of the child. As most stated, your mother will need to have compelling evidence that you are a "bad mother". Respond to the order the best you can, and give your reasons as to why you object. Why you are a good mother, and why your child deserves to be with you. But if you do have legal aid there i would definitely look into it, it is MUCH cheaper then forking out money for an attorney. Just because your mother has an attorney doesn't mean she will win, nor does it mean she's above you. Whether or not an attorney is present if you have proof against her allegations, the court will rule fairly. (In most cases)

Raye - posted on 09/03/2015

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You should be able to request a hearing in lieu of a written response. However, what they are most likely wanting from you is whether or not you consent for them to award custody based on what has been presented to them in the petition and what they feel is in the best interest of the child. Writing it out in a business letter format should be sufficient, or call the courthouse and ask the clerk if there is a specific format or form to use.

If you do NOT give consent without your wishes as the parent being considered, then state that you do not consent to a change in custody and give reasons why, such as: your ability to make sound judgments in the child's best interests, that any change of address would remove the child from established social/developmental activities such as school, daycare, church, etc., that the child is well-adjusted in your care, and anything else in evidence specifically against accusations by the grandparent in the petition.

The grandmother should still need clear and convincing evidence against you to get the court to consider any kind of change.

Lisa - posted on 09/03/2015

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The order that I was served says that I have 30 days to "respond in writing". I have no idea how to do this. I do not feel that I am qualified to represent myself, when the future of my daughter may be at stake. I have evidence against my mother's allegations, but I dont know how to present it (or how to make sure im allowed to present it.)

While I have tried to tell my child as few details as possible, Im also aware of the fact that my mother has an attorney, and i do not, so anything can happen. I did not want her to be totalled unprepared. She knows that i have to go to court because her grandmother thinks she should live with her. She says she is afraid she is going to be somewhere else (ex. school), and her grandmother is going to take her without me knowing it. She now doesnt want to go anywhere without me. She wants to sleep with me, which she has never done. She is just very worried and confused.

Raye - posted on 09/03/2015

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Lisa,
If you are the only living parent, then you should have sole legal custody. There shouldn't be anything you need to file in response to your mother's petition, unless the court asks you to provide documents. Generally if the other party has an attorney, you are better off having one also. But she will still have to have PROOF of her allegations. She shouldn't be able to have her attorney fancy-talk you out of your natural rights. Face her in court, and tell the truth. Don't bicker, argue, or make a spectacle of yourself. Be calm and forthright.

I don't understand what you're saying about your daughter being afraid to leave the house. Why would that be? If your mother is threatening to take her from the school, then call the police and get a restraining order against her. Your daughter shouldn't have to be afraid.

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