Representing yourself in family court during a child custody matter is a very intimidating experience. Though representing yourself is not recommended, many people simply do not have the financial resources to employ a family law attorney to handle all matters that they will face. It gets extremely expensive very quickly. The higher the level of conflict associated with your situation, the higher you can expect the fees to be. Despite these issues, such matters are handled successfully by thousands of self-represented litigants every day.
Learn about your specific court's rules and procedures. They'll differ from one state to another. Sometimes the procedures differ from one court to another within the same state. Call the clerk of courts at your courthouse and inquire as to the nature of the process. They won't give you any legal advice, but they can detail for you the steps for filing a petition to modify custody, including where to obtain a template for the petition to modify child custody.
Obtain a form to petition the court for a hearing to modify the custody arrangement. In some cases, they may even be available for download online at your court's website. Typical information you'll need to provide are your name, the defendant's name (the other parent), the children's names and other associated information. You'll likely have a case identification number and docket number as well.
Complete the paperwork and provide supporting documentation justifying your request to modify the custody arrangement. File your petition with the court. Your case will be added to the schedule for consideration. You will receive a copy to give to the other parent.
Serve the other parent with notice of your intent to request the court consider a modification to custody and the date of the conference or hearing. In some states, your case will be scheduled for conference with a court officer to see whether an agreement can be made without having to attend a hearing. If an agreement is struck, the order will be modified without a court hearing. Otherwise, a hearing will be scheduled, and dates are often given to both parties at the end of the conference. This counts as official notification of the hearing date.
Prepare for and attend the child custody hearing. Bring with you all of the documentation and any other evidence that supports your petition that a custody modification is warranted. Bring witnesses. If any potential witnesses are uncooperative, you will need to serve them with a subpoena to appear and testify. This will require their appearance in court if you anticipate that they will not come voluntarily. At the hearing, you will make your compelling case in the hopes that the presiding judge will grant the modification and make it your new child custody order.