Do I need an attorney for a child custody case if my ex doesn’t have one?

UPDATED: Sep 12, 2011

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Do I need an attorney for a child custody case if my ex doesn’t have one?

My ex just served me with custody papers. My son, who is 10, has lived with me for the last 8 years. The same house and school. We never had any previous court custody arrangements. I do have a signed paper we both made stating that he will live with me. Also, on the court summons she put shes unemployed and filled out the question as to “where has the child lived in the last 5 years ” incorrectly.

Asked on September 12, 2011 under Family Law, Alaska


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Although it would be advisable to be represented by an attorney, you can represent yourself if that is your decision. 

There are two types of custody; physical custody and legal custody.  Physical custody means the parent with whom the child is living.  Legal custody means making decisions about the child's education, healthcare, etc.

The court will consider the best interests of the child in a custody case.  Since your son has lived with you for eight of his ten years,  a judge is NOT going to remove the child from your home and grant physical custody to your ex because your son is accustomed to living with you.

As for legal custody, it is possible the court could grant joint legal custody so that both parents would be making decisions about the child's education, healthcare, etc.

You will need to file an answer with the court to the documents with which you were served.  You will need to file your answer within the time set forth in the summons.  If you don't timely file your answer with a proof of service and serve it on your ex, she could file a request for default which means you would lose by default.  If a default is entered, you will need to file a motion to set aside the default.  If the court grants the motion to set aside the default, the case will be back on track and litigation will proceed. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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