A man and woman who are not married have a baby. During the pregnancy the two split up. The woman sues the man for shared custody of the child and he is ordered to pay child support. He regularly visits the child and there are no problems or issues with that so far.

The woman decides to sue the man or modify the order and is now asking for sole custody and to require the father to submit to paid, supervised visits of his daughter.

If someone doesn't have many resources at their disposal to fight this action, does the law in Pennsylvania allow any 'public defender' type of help - as it does with criminal actions? Or what type of remedies does the law provide in this kind of circumstance?

2 Answers 2


To go slightly beyond the question asked to a related one, there is basically only one area other than criminal defense for which you are entitled to a publicly paid attorney to defend you. This is an action by the state to have your parental rights terminated for abuse or neglect, if you are indigent.

Also, while lawyers are not available to the indigent, it is possible to obtain a waiver of certain court filing fees, and to obtain the services of a state paid interpreter (if needed) if you are indigent and fill out the proper form. I recently had a domestic relations case where there was a state paid sign language interpreter for a deaf client.

Finally, in an ordinary custody/child support dispute, the court can sometimes order the wealthier spouse to pay some or all of the legal fees of the less wealthy spouse.


The law does not, by itself provide the kind of help you're looking for. There are, however, legal services organizations that may be able to assist. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has links to several of them.

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