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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
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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. FindLaw.com 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. FindLaw.com lists custody laws [3] by state and custody resources [4] by state, and links to custody forms[5] for each state. Lawyers.com 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.
Discounts:
  • 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 law.Lawyers.com explains what to do in a first meeting with a family law attorney[9] .
  • Referrals are available through FindLaw.com[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.
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External Resources:
  1.  www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0964940434
  2.  hirealawyer.findlaw.com/attorney-fees-and-agreements/types-of-legal-fees.html
  3.  family.findlaw.com/child-custody/child-custody-summaries-of-state-laws.html
  4.  family.findlaw.com/child-custody/child-custody-and-visitation-information-by-state.html
  5.  family.findlaw.com/child-custody/child-custody-forms-by-state.html
  6.  family-law.lawyers.com/visitation-rights/Visitation-Rights-After-Divorce-or-End-of-Rela...
  7.  www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=child+custody...
  8.  apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm
  9.  family-law.lawyers.com/Family-Law-Meeting-with-a-Lawyer.html
  10.  family.findlaw.com/child-custody/get-legal-help-with-custody-visitation.html
  11.  apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/
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