I have filed for a custody hearing in at Va Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, and our hearing date has been set. My circumstances have not allowed me to retain a lawyer. Thus, I need to represent myself. What will happen at the first hearing? I understand that psyche evaluations might be ordered, GALs assigned, etc. How are those costs distributed in VA Beach, and what are the ranges? Other than court fees, are there other major expenses that I should be prepared for?
I'm also curious if I can ask for court ordered family therapy. Can I do that, and if so, will the financial burden be entirely mine? What do I need to prepare before going?
The first hearing will be to determine whether the case is contested or not. If it is contested, a hearing will be set on a later date-several months in the future. The court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (lawyer for the child) and may order Home Studies of the parties' residences if living conditions are an issue. Psychological evaluations will not be ordered at the first hearing and in fact, are rarely ordered. If they are, the parties pay for them. The court also will divide the cost of the GAL between the parties. If a party is indigent, no cost will be assessed to that party.
The court also will direct the parties to attend the mediation orientation and provides no-cost mediation services. This is a very good process which should be pursued prior to going to court. If an agreement is reached, it is presented to the judge and entered as a court order.