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Single stay-at-home mom needs attorney for upward modification of support, can not afford to pay, father is affluent individual.

Buffalo, NY |

Became pregnant with daughter while working for her father. Dad is uninvolved, has cut off child support, and is high net worth individual. I can't afford a lawyer. I recently (06/2013) filed for an upward modification of support in family court based on child's best interests, child's actual needs not met, her established standard of living, special needs, developing interests, educational needs, sudden/unexpected change of circumstances, significant increase (>15%) in father's income since initial petition filed in 2009, significant decline in mother's income, inflation/devaluation since 2009, etc. History of domestic abuse w/ child's father. In retaliation he's trying to get custody; he has severe alcohol/drug problem. I am a non-drinker, etc. I am a homemaker, may go back to school.

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Attorney answers 4

Posted

Absent legal aid assistance or a pro bono attorney from a local panel (you can start with the local bar association) you will have to represent yourself. Fortunately, the support court, a subset of Family court, is streamlined and expects litigants to often be unrepresented, and is user friendly. Go on-line for advice on how to represent yourself in such matters, just so you know what you will need, file the petition, and if you are entitled to an increase, you should get it.

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.

Asker

Posted

Thanks for your quick answer. There ls a history of domestic violence with child's father. Most recently (late 2012) he assaulted me (concussion, bruises) and broke an order of protection by phone (death threat). In retaliation for filing charges, he has now filed for custody. He has a very skilled attorney, an endless supply of funds, and he will fight tooth and nail. If he gets custody it will be her ruin. Since his relapse in 2012, his house has turned into a drug den. I am very worried that I need a lawyer. Otherwise, it will be a game of lion and mouse, and I will not be able to win for my daughter's sake. In my case, he is the breadwinner, and I am the stay at home mom. My contributions were always non-financial (I do all the work or rearing her). Do attorneys sometimes take moms/kids without payment up front, then get a judgment that dad pays the attorney fees?

Asker

Posted

Who would you call to find an attorney in you were in my shoes? I need someone who does not need a retainer up front, and who is willing to settle for an award of attorney's fees from court. The money is there. He has deep pockets. I am the poor parent, he the affluent one. Thanks for all your help!

Marco Caviglia

Marco Caviglia

Posted

Try the local bar association, Legal Aid possibly.

Asker

Posted

For everyone's future reference, because I know other parents in Buffalo, NY (or WNY) may read this as reference and seek their own answers: I found that I was able to be considered for representation for the upward modification ONLY by contacting Volunteer Lawyers Project at 716-847-0662. They are not able to help me with anything else in family court (custody, violation of existing support order, violation of existing order of protection) because there is the court-appointed income-based "assigned counsel" program to cover that. Your income has to be very low, and mine is right now. I have yet to hear back from Volunteer Lawyers Project, and was transferred to someone's line to leave a voice mail. Other organizations either did not return my call yet, or or do not handle that type of case.

Posted

If, as you say, the father has filed a petition for custody, you, as the mother, are considered to be the respondent and are entitled to assigned counsel if you are indeed indigent and cannot afford an attorney. The Family Court Act, Section 262 mandates this. Here in Buffalo, representation is provided by the Erie County Bar Association's Assigned Counsel program.

The above statement is intended for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

Asker

Posted

Thank you. I have assigned counsel for custody only, and that individual is jeopardizing the case by being overbooked, preoccupied, and unavailable. She was called into the court room twice and did not appear because she had over-booked too many clients that morning. It was alarming and embarrassing. She ignored all my phone messages, faxes, and emails. She does not have time to spek with me before or after court. She does not even really know the important specifics of my case. I could do just as well for myself, and that's not saying much. I do not even know what is going on, or where things stand. And with my daughter's father having an excellent attorney and deep pockets, I also need a competent attorney. How many times have you seen a mouse go up against a giant and lose? My whole life is about being a mom, his is devoted to partying while employees make him an insane amount of money. I do not have the resources to hire an attorney, and it is critical for custody and upwards modification of support. Do you know of any promising attorneys who do pro bono work in Buffalo, NY? Or can legal charges be assigned to her father, who has all the money?

Parker Roy MacKay

Parker Roy MacKay

Posted

If your assigned counsel on the custody case is truly neglecting your case, this is something that should be brought to the court's attention so that the court can decide whether to relieve current counsel and appoint new counsel. Any outside attorney, whether pro bono or compensated, will be very hesitant to get involved where counsel is already assigned and has not been relieved. As for the support issue, trial courts have the discretion to award attorney's fees if you prevail in your case. Young attorneys like myself will occasionally take on the right pro bono case to build their reputation, but you may have a harder time finding a more experienced attorney who is willing to take on such a case pro bono because you are not guaranteed to win.

Asker

Posted

Who would you call to find an attorney in you were in my shoes? I need someone who does not need a retainer up front, and who is willing to settle for an award of attorney's fees from court. The money is there. He has deep pockets. I am the poor parent, he the affluent one. Thanks for all your help!

Posted

I would contact your local dss, and ask for the support collection unit. You may apply for them to collect any child support payments. They may also aid you with any further modifications.

Asker

Posted

Thanks. It is my hope to do things privately, not to turn to DSS for assistance for many reasons. Any time I have involved government for help with private bsuiness, it seems to backfire. In order to receive assistance, you have to turn over rights and privacy, and intrusiveness is not an option for me. Too much to lose. I am looking for an attorney who does pro bono work for battered women, who can recoup his/her fees in court. I just do not have the money for the retainer. Her father has cut off child support payments, and I am a stay at home mom caring for a young child with special needs. I would like to go back to school when she gets a little older, maybe next year, but right now we need to get over the hump. The financial abuse of cutting off her support has resulted in instability for us: housing, food, transportation, etc. He only wants custody as retaliation for me pressing charges for an assault and violation of an order of protection. Who would you call to find an attorney in the Buffalo, NY area if you were in my shoes?

Joseph Paul Petito

Joseph Paul Petito

Posted

Call the local bar association. ------------------------------

Posted

I understand your financial constraints but if an attorney can get you an extra $1000/mo, that is $12,000/yr. Over the next 10 years, that is $120,000. If he is a high net worth individual, he will likely have a highly paid attorney. It may be worth it to pay a good attorney to represent you. It is even more crucial if he is trying to get custody---lest you find yourself paying him child support.

You don't want a situation where your attorney can't provide you the vigorous representation that you deserve. He can always file a motion for attorney's fees.

Asker

Posted

Have no money in the bank. Have no assets. No credit. Everything is in his name. We were never married. I worked for him, depended on his for my income. Except for friends/family, we'd be on the street. I am the one with absolutely nothing right now; unfortunately, so is my daughter. He doesn't even pay support, though it's been ordered. I What do people do who have literally nothing? How do they hire an attorney? Yes, there may be money in the future. But I can not pluck money out of the future.

Ralph Duthely

Ralph Duthely

Posted

If he's not paying at all, you should file a violation petition and seek incarceration. That is a lot easier to handle pro se and, often, the respondent will settle and pay rather than go to jail. The only issue will be whether he has paid. The burden will be on him to prove that he has. If he hasn't, he won't be able to prove anything to the court. Good luck.

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