My son is 2 and a half. I have been with my boyfriend, the father of my son, until last November when I had to move out because of my boyfriend's irrationale behavior. I left my son with my ex-boyfriend and I have my son every day from 8am until 6pm M-F. My ex-boyfriend is trying to make me suffer because I broke off the relationship. There is a court hearing scheduled for February 2, 2011 where my ex-boyfriend is going to claim I am an unfit mother and get full custody of my son. I have a job, but I have no money saved to retain a good attorney to help me. What is likely to happen at this court hearing, and what can I do to postpone it to give me more time to hopefully get good representation?
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
I'll answer your second question first. You should immediately contact the court to request a postponement of the hearing so you can retain a lawyer. They may require you to reach out to your ex-boyfriend to see if he consents. They may also require you to put your request in writing.
Next, if you are unable to retain a lawyer, you must respond, IN WRITING, to the claims he set forth in his Certification to support his request for custody. In your response you should address why you ARE a fit mother and why it it in your child's best interests to deny the application. Your response is time-sensitive, so be sure to file it as soon as possible. I would suggest speaking with a member of the court staff to determine exactly when your response is due. A copy of whatever you file will need to be sent via regular and certified mail to your ex-boyfriend or his attorney. You may also consider filing a cross-motion in which you should request any relief from the court that you seek. You really need to discuss all of these issues with a lawyer as soon as possible. Most county bar associations have a lawyer referral service that either limits or eliminates initial consultation fees. I would suggest you begin your search for assistance there.
This response is for informational purposes only and not intended to be legal advice or in any way create a lawyer-client relationship. You should always consult a lawyer with questions you have about any legal matter.
You should immediately retain an attorney who is experienced in family law/custody issues because those are serious allegations lodged against you and the stakes are too high for you to ignore it. An attorney could not tell you the outcome of your court hearing without questioning you in detail and seeing what was filed against you.
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Divorce / Separation Lawyer
I'd second what Cristian said.
Yes, of course if you can afford a lawyer you should get one, but it doesn't sound like that's possible. DON'T PANIC.
First, saying someone is "unfit" and proving it are worlds apart. The standard, by the way, isn't "fitness" (that's more applicable in DYFS cases), it's a "best interests" analysis.
In all likelihood, if your son has been living with you for 2 1/2 years, the court isn't going to change custody absent some kind of extreme circumstances. If he filed something attacking you as "unfit", my experience says a judge will be turned off by that unless he can truly back it up.
If there's no DV order involved, the judge will send you two to mediation to discuss joint legal custody and parenting time.
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