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CostHelper > Personal Finance  > Legal > Child Support Attorney

Child Support Attorney Cost

How Much Does a Child Support Attorney Cost?

average costMedium: Usually Starts Around $2,000-$4,000high costHigh: Can Run $4,000-$25,000 for Complex, Contested Cases
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  Typical costs:
  • A custodial parent seeking court-ordered support payments may not need to hire a private attorney. Each state has its own Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program which provides services locating non-custodial parents; establishing paternity; obtaining court orders for support payments; and collecting support payments. These agencies work together and collaborate with federal authorities. A custodial parent should apply through the local CSE office[1] . Some states charge no application fees; others may charge $1-$25. The National Conference of State Legislators lists whether a specific state recovers costs or charges fees for support recovery services and the federal CSE provides links to state and federal programs[2] .
  • Whether you're the custodial or noncustodial parent, you can choose to hire a private attorney. Typical legal fees start around $2,000-$4000 for representation in a child support case where both sides agree, but can be $4,000-$25,000 or more for a complex, contested case that goes to trial.
  • Because family law cases can be time-consuming and unpredictable, most family law legal fees are based on an hourly rate of $100-$400, although it can go as high as $500/hour. The advance fee known as a retainer is based on an estimated number of hours. As the case is worked, the fees are deducted from the total amount. When the money is gone, you'll be billed for an additional prepayment. The retainer may be nonrefundable, even if it isn't used up by the hourly rates.
  • Attorneys may charge a flat fee for a specific, straightforward process, such as the paperwork needed for an uncontested change -- but usually with a provision that if the situation becomes more complicated, the total cost will go up. explains the basic types of legal fees[3] .
  • Some private, for-profit agencies offer child support enforcement services in exchange for 25-30 percent of any money that's recovered; they may also charge an application and processing fee for assisting with filing a court order, and charge a monthly deduction from each support payment. However, the agency is not an attorney and cannot provide any legal assistance or advice. The New York Better Business Bureau presents an overview of child support enforcement options, and lists questions to ask[4] before signing with a private child support enforcement service.
Related articles: Child Custody Attorney, Divorce, Prenuptial Agreement

What should be included:
  • Each state has a formula for setting child support payments. provides an overview of child support basics[5] . The federal Department of Health and Human Services offers a glossary of common child support terms and acronyms[6] and a handbook[7] on child support enforcement, written for parents who are either working through a CSE office or with a private attorney.
Additional costs:
  • Books[8] giving an overview of the child support system cost $14-$100.
  • An initial consultation with an attorney to discuss your case may be free or it could be charged at the attorney's hourly rate; ask before you go.
  • 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. Ask for a written estimate of anticipated "other" costs.
  • 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[9] in each state.
Shopping for a child support attorney:
  • Ask family and friends for feedback on local family law attorneys. Contact several, and ask about each one's training and experience specifically in family law. explains what to do in a first meeting with a family law attorney[10] .
  • Search for divorce/child support attorneys at[11] or[12] .
  • 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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