Do I need to have an attorney?
You do not have to have an attorney at the hearing but you may want one, especially if you think the abuser will have a lawyer.
The court should advise both you and the abuser that you each have a right to hire a lawyer to represent you and that if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you can ask the court to assign a lawyer to represent you for free (if you are a low-income person.)1 In order to qualify for a free court-appointed lawyer, you must meet certain income requirements and the judge may ask you to produce paystubs or other proof of your income. Do not be afraid to speak up and ask for an attorney even if the judge does not ask you if you want one appointed.
Even if you choose to proceed without an attorney or if the court delays in appointing an attorney for you, we recommended that you consult with an attorney to make sure that your legal rights are protected. For more information on domestic violence agencies and legal assistance in your area, please go to NY Places that Help.
1 NY Fam Ct Act §262(a)(ii)