How Much Do Child Custody Lawyers Cost?

The cost of a child custody lawyer is a great concern for anyone facing an upcoming custody battle. You want to have a rough idea of how much you are going to spend throughout your case. 

One thing to note here is that there is no fixed rate since cases are different from county to county and state to state. However, we can give you a rough estimate of the cost depending on the nature of your case. 

Filing for Child Custody 

Filing for a child custody case will cost between $200 to $400 depending on the court. Remember, this is just for filing your case and can vary from one court to the next. There are so many other costs involved as we will discuss. 

The general costs for uncontested custody range between $2500 to $5000 and for the cases that go to trial, it can cost between $3000 to $40,000. This also will depend on several factors, largely, the nature or complexity of the case. 

Nature of Costs Involved in A Child Custody Case 

Apart from filing costs, other costs come in different forms and add up to the total costs of your lawyer or attorney. That includes the following

Consultation Fee

This is the charge for the initial meeting with your lawyer. Consultation fees differ from one attorney to another depending on the level of experience and expertise in the field. 

Some lawyers also offer a free initial consultation. 

Flat Rate and Hourly Fee 

Some lawyers charge for the number of hours spent on your case, while others will charge a flat or fixed rate for the entire duration of the case. 

The hourly rate may range from $100 to $450 per hour, but again depending on your attorney. Also, some lawyers charge a higher amount per hour in court and out of court, or office hours will be cheaper.

Things that Can Affect the Cost of Child Custody Lawyer 

There is no fixed or uniform price for all child custody lawyers. The costs vary from one lawyer to another depending on several factors that we are going to discuss. That includes the attorney’s fee based on his or her experience among other factors such as: 

Experience of The Lawyer

More experienced attorneys have more referrals and hence charge a higher fee as compared to the less experienced attorneys because they are already busy and have the luxury of turning down cases. 

Therefore, if you are looking at cutting down your costs, you may settle for a less experienced but cheaper lawyer to represent your case. This doesn’t mean they will do a bad job, it is just that you should keep your expectations realistic.

Nature of The Custody Case 

The nature of your custody case will also reflect the costs that you are going to incur. If the case is complicated and going to require much of the court’s time, then you will eventually pay more. 

For a straightforward case, the judge may determine the outcome within a short time or with few court dates and that will reduce the costs. 

Another thing on the nature of the case is whether it is contested or not. Uncontested cases as we mentioned would cost between $2500 and $5000. If your case is contested and goes to trial, you can pay more and that is between $3000 and 40,000 respectively. 

Third-Party Specialists 

This normally happens when the custody case is complicated and requires more expertise than offered by your lawyer. 

For instance, if the case involves more than one child and the father contests that he is not the biological father of one of the children, then it may involve other experts to get the DNA tests for the child. 

In other cases, for example, if one parent is accused of child abuse by the other, then an expert in child psychology may come in handy. 

Therefore, involving third-party specialists, especially when the case goes to trial can be more expensive. 

Duration of The Case 

The more time your child custody case takes, the more you will pay your lawyer, obviously. 

When a case goes to trial or can’t be settled in mediation, it means you will spend more time in court and allow judges to rule the case and determine the outcome. 

That also means there will be additional court sessions and whether you are paying your lawyer on an hourly or flat rate basis, it will cause additional charges. 

Hourly Charges vs The Flat Rate 

There are advantages and disadvantages of both. 

While the hourly rate seems best at first, just paying for work your lawyer or attorney spent throughout your case, it may cost more if the rate per hour is high. 

Additionally, a flat rate is good for knowing the “all in” cost upfront for more straightforward cases. For that matter, it is easy to budget for the whole case from the beginning of the case. 

But, if the lawyer has no incentive to earn any extra money, they might not put forth their full effort.

Extra Charges or Miscellaneous 

A child custody battle will involve a lot of filings, hearings, and other things that you may be required to pay for separately. 

Other possible costs include expert witness fees which are paid to the professional people who give their advice or opinion on matters that fall outside your expertise. 

You may need them if you feel that there should be a psychological examination performed on the child or that you are asking for a change in custody due to some other special circumstance. 

Conclusion 

Ideally, if you can work out a lot of the details before ever going to mediation, much less court, you will be way ahead of the curve when it comes to the high cost of child custody cases. 

anything you can’t work out peacefully with your Ex, try to get it resolved in mediation, which is much cheaper than a full blown custody battle in the County Courthouse.

But if all else fails, and court is inevitable, these tips should give you a good start.