I rarely recommend going to family court without a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, the Judge will examine your financials. If you qualify, the court will appoint an attorney for you. If you do not qualify, you would need to pay.
I agree with Mr. Port, but if you don't have an attorney and the other side doesn't either, the rules regarding visitation are pretty simple. If you are the non-custodial parent and there are no issues with child abuse or neglect, CPS involvement, drug use or criminal stuff (convictions, hanging out with criminals), you will get reasonable opportunities for unsupervised visitation.
You may need to have some of the basics down first (order of filiation proving you are a parent, making sure you're not a scofflaw on child support if there's an order), but if you don't have "issues" the main problem is how to come up with a schedule for handing the child off that's agreeable with the custodial parent and doesn't trigger arguments about what the schedule is. Try to work it out. Suggest mediation if it's a problem. Communicate with the CP by email as to pick ups and drop offs.
Usually when there are no attorneys, the court will just let both people speak and ask questions. Don't interrupt anyone who's talking and talk over them, especially the judge. Be calm and everyone will have a chance to speak. If you do have "issues" about child safety, be prepared to come up with a plan for supervised visitation, have people who can do this (usually grandparents).
Don't get into arguments in court about silly stuff in the motions about supposedly inappropriate things you've done, just calmly deny them. If you're using drugs or alcohol to excess, stop and get into treatment, it is likely that if this comes up or CPS is involved, you will be drug tested if that's what the CP or her/his family is trying to lay on you.
Try to talk with the attorney for the child. Plan for fun activities during visitation so the child will enjoy visitation and say so to the CP and Attorney for the Child.
Good luck. A lawyer is not absolutely neccessary to the process, but he certainly better understands the rules, proper courthouse behavior and rules of evidence, is known by the Judge and it's always easier for someone else to be saying you're a great guy/gal than you blowing your own horn, if you know what I mean, that's just human nature.
This answer is provided under the Avvo.com “Terms and Conditions of Use” (“ToU”), particularly ¶9 which states that any information provided is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship between you and me or any other attorney. Such information is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issues. In particular, my answers and those of others are not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issue, and you should not rely solely upon Legal Information you obtain from this website or other resources which may be linked to an answer for informational purposes. You understand that questions and answers or other postings to the Site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege. The full Avvo ToU are set forth at http://www.avvo.com/support/terms . In addition, while similar legal principles often apply in many states, I am only licensed to practice in the State of New York and Federal Courts. Any general information I provide about non-New York laws should be checked with an attorney licensed to practice in your State. Lastly, New York State Court rules (22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 7.1) also require me to inform you that my answers and attorney profile posted on the Avvo.com site may be considered "attorney advertising" and that "prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome".
You should consult with an attorney before court. You will be in a better position to determine whether or not to be represented by an attorney and, at the very least, you'll know what to say.
Request at court assigned or reduced fee counsel.
If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.
Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about child custody law.