Life is often uncertain, and it subjects us to unanticipated changes when we are least ready. New Yorkers who have worked their way through a divorce proceeding often believe that they have suffered the worst experience that life can offer. Unfortunately, living circumstances often change suddenly and with little advance warning. A sudden change in living conditions can often wreck a previous court order for child custody. In such circumstances, people affected by the order will often resort to the internet looking for self-help assistance. New York offers plenty of such help, and people often wonder if they need an attorney to guide them through the process of amending the earlier order. The answer to the earlier question is, unfortunately, “maybe.”
What to do?
An attorney can always offer assistance where a court order is involved; the real question may be “Do I want to pay for an attorney to help me do something that the state is willing to let me do myself?” The first thing to remember is that court proceedings are often unpredictable, and a proceeding that seems simple can suddenly raise questions that no one has previously considered. A custodial parent who is trying to increase the amount of parental time may suddenly be asked questions about the child’s health and the effect of a serious illness that the child suffer in the past year.
Lawyers who are experienced with court appearances have two important skills: knowledge of the applicable law and the ability to deal with unexpected developments. A lay person may not be able to deal with an unexpected issue in the same manner as a court-seasoned lawyer. Having an advocate who is trained to keep the client’s interests front and center in all circumstances may seem priceless in the moment of crisis.
In trying to decide whether to retain a lawyer for a motion to amend a prior order, a person should seek advice, and if the person was previously represented, the earlier attorney is an excellent source of needed advice.