Search thousands of topics on

BROWSE ALL TOPICS >> appliances babies & children  cars  consumer electronics health & personal care home & garden personal finance  pets  schools small business weddings
CostHelper > Personal Finance  > Legal > Child Custody Attorney

Child Custody Attorney Cost

How Much Does a Child Custody Attorney Cost?

average costMedium: Start around $3,000-$5,000; Usually Billing $75-$400+ per hourhigh costHigh: Can Run $5,00-$,35000 for Complex Cases
post E-mail post Post   Comments (1)

An initial custody arrangement will be set up as part of a divorce, but changes in one parent's circumstances or desires (or if the parents were never married so there is no divorce decree), a separate child custody suit may be filed.

Typical costs:

  • Legal fees start around $3,000-$5,000 for a relatively simple child custody case, but could be quite a bit less if both parents are in relative agreement and can settle out of court. However, legal costs can jump to $5,500-$35,000 or more for a custody battle that includes taking depositions, hiring experts to testify, extensive "discovery" in the other parent's records, and lots of time preparing for and holding a trial.
  • Because custody cases are unpredictable in terms of complications and length, most family law attorneys charge fees based on hourly rates of $75-$400, although some attorneys charge as much as $500 an hour, according to the book "Child Custody Made Simple"[1] ; time in court is usually charged at a higher rate than for an office consultation. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for a specific, straightforward process, such as the paperwork needed for an uncontested change in custody arrangements. explains the basic types of legal fees[2] .
  • Legal fees are usually paid in advance in a payment known as a retainer. If the attorney is working on an hourly basis, charges for the hours worked by an attorney or office staff will be deducted from the retainer as the work is done; if the retainer is used up you will be billed for an additional pre-payment.
Related articles: Child Support Attorney, Divorce, Prenuptial Agreement

What should be included:
  • Child custody is meant to be awarded based on the best interests of the child or children; custody is usually governed by state rather than federal law. Details vary between states. lists custody laws [3] by state and custody resources [4] by state, and links to custody forms[5] for each state. describes the rights of a non-custodial parent[6] .
Additional costs:
  • Books explaining the child custody system[7] range from $12-$100.
  • Some lawyers may include filing fees or other court costs ($5-$250 or more) and other expenses (copying, postage, messengers, paralegal time, etc.) in their legal fees but other attorneys charge separately for these. Get a written estimate of anticipated "other" costs.
  • Working with a mediator to create a custody agreement (without going to trial) could cost $80-$250 an hour, for two or more hours of work; this fee is usually split by both parties.
  • The initial consultation to discuss your case may be free or it could be charged at the attorney's hourly rate; ask before you go.
  • Many states have programs granting fee waivers (for filing fees and other court costs) to low-income people. You may also qualify for Legal Aid or other free or low-cost assistance; the American Bar Association links to legal resources[8] in each state.
Shopping for a child custody attorney:
  • Ask family and friends for feedback on local family law attorneys. Contact several, and ask about each one's training and experience in family explains what to do in a first meeting with a family law attorney[9] .
  • Referrals are available through[10] ; or you can contact your local bar association[11] .
  • Your attorney should provide you with a written fee agreement. Be sure you understand what is covered, and any other fees and expenses you might have to pay.
post E-mail post Post   Comments (1)
CostHelper News

7 Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety Steps To Do This Week
Gathering around a wood stove or fireplace on a cold winter night can be wonderful experience, but it's crucial to not take basic safety for granted. || Posted November 12 2013

The 4-1-1 on Flu Shots
There are 13 different CDC-approved flu shots available this year. Do you know which one is right for you?To be fair, one is actually an inhaled spray, not a shot, but it is one of the choices. It's restricted to people between the ages of 2 and 49. || Posted November 4 2013

‣ All CostHelper Blog Posts

What People Are Paying - Recent Comments
relocation action
Amount: $30,000.00 total
Posted by: Custodial Parent in Ithaca, NY.Posted: December 6th, 2014 05:12AM
Law Firm: Miller-MayerAmount Per Hour: 300
* over $2000 to prepare petition
* over $15000 the week of 1.5 days in court
* billed for both junior associate and partner appearance at court
* junior associate seems to cost at least twice as much per task compared to senior associate
* no deposition
* minor discovery requests
* no special witness
* billed for self-initiated investigations that did not result in any product
* multiple items on the bill did not lead to any legal product
Was this post helpful to you?   yes     no Report prohibited or spam


Comment On Your Experience With a Child Custody Attorney
Subject:  *
Amount Spent:  * total
Law Firm: Amount Per Hour: 
Purchased:  Year: 
City:  * State:  *
Information about you:
Email:  * Email addresses are not displayed.
Name:  This is the name we'll display with your post.
me on this computer
*=required field.

External Resources:
More Personal Finance Topics
Check Out All Costs for Personal Finance How Much Do Funeral Flowers Cost? How Much Do Tax Returns Cost? How Much Does Closing a Home Cost?

Search Thousands of Topics on


Today's Featured Cost Articles

About CostHelper
CostHelper is based in Silicon Valley and provides consumers with unbiased price information about thousands of goods and services. Our writers are experienced journalists who adhere to our strict editorial ethics policy.

CostHelper Community
Angiogram of heart
Paid: 55150.00
Had this procedure done to check heart due to abnormal stress test. Did not need any stents or any other procedure as everything was negative... [more]
-Pamela Garrett
Angiogram Cost
HELP: asbestos in furance - many questions
Paid: 0.00
I am renting out my home in Grand Rapids, MI and have received a notice from the city that the home must be inspected... [more]
Asbestos Removal Cost
Paid: 45.00
The clamp was annoying so it took away concentration of the tiny sting of the needle. I had just turned 15 at the the time and I've had it for almost a year and it has healed fast and never given me any trouble... [more]
Body Piercings Cost
Paid: 3009.00
Single family home... [more]
Ductwork Cost
2 half shafts replaced
Paid: 140.00
Bought the axles myself on ebay for 40 each, then had a mobile mechanic come to my house to do the work. It is not a hard job, but has a couple tricky parts for a subaru. Easier for a honda or toyota... [more]
-Subbie Giy
Replacing a CV Boot Cost
Even with insurance looking at going broke
Paid: 55000.00
Recently on a camping vacation my 11 year old became very sick. Took him to the closest hospital. Found out he is type 1 diabetic. Was very sick and had to be flown from Rock Springs WY, to Salt Lake City, UT. 185 mile on the ground... [more]
-Broke and confused.
Air Ambulance Cost