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Legal Information: North Carolina

Custody

Updated: 
February 6, 2020

Do I need a lawyer to start a custody case?

You do not need a lawyer to file for custody.  However, custody cases are often complicated, and a lawyer can help you through it.  It also may be difficult for you to file the proper paperwork without the help of a lawyer.  Also, if the other parent has a lawyer, it will be particularly helpful if you have a lawyer as well.

You can talk to or get a lawyer at any time during the course of your custody case, but getting a lawyer at the last minute usually will not be grounds for postponing your case.  Also, many lawyers will not take a custody case at the last minute so it is best to begin your search for a lawyer as soon as you know that there will be a court case.

If you decide to represent yourself (known as being “pro se”) in a custody case, some counties have a pro se self-serve center where you can get the forms that you will need to file.  Wake County has such a center, so does Mecklenburg and a few others.  To find out if your courthouse has a pro se self-serve center, you can call your local courthouse.  Go to NC Courthouse Locations to find the court in your county. 

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.