How Much Does Child Custody Lawyer Cost?

Since every contentious area in one’s life requires resolution, there will always be an inexhaustible market for justice. Attorneys are professionals that resolve issues between two parties, where judgments determined and pronounced are always bound to satisfy the laws of the land. Nothing captures the idea of two conflicting parties better than two parents fighting over the guardianship of a child. It is safe to say that this type of conflict has been around since King Solomon settled the dispute between two bitterly disagreeable mothers.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the rate of divorce from 2014 to be around 3.2 per 1,000 couples. While couples with children are 40% less likely to get a divorce, nearly 40% of the children in the United States are currently growing up without fathers (talk about equal irony). The importance of legal child custody resolutions is always hinged on securing the welfare of the child. While child custody lawyers may advance the interests of their clients, their core function and purpose is to facilitate the legal process of providing the most viable custody arrangement for the child.

children under protection

Expected Cost and Breakdown

Roughly speaking, the child custody lawyer cost could range anywhere between $3,000 and $150,000. The overall cost is primarily determined by two factors: the complexity of the child custody case and the degree of mutual hostility between disputing parties.

The difficulty of the case directly affects the length of time required by the lawyer to resolve the legal process. Apart from the attorney’s hourly rate, clients may also have to pay for other miscellaneous expenses needed in the legal process. However, what really drives the difficulty of the case is the intensity of the dispute between opposing parties. It somehow determines whether the case can be settled by mediation or court trial. 

Legal Match provides a comprehensive analysis regarding the overall price of hiring a child custody lawyer. These are the key billable charges every legal client should remember:

  • Attorney’s hourly rate: $140 to $645
  • Custody evaluation: $1,500 to $6,000
  • Mediation (if not court trial): $100 to $300 per hour
  • Court trial costs: $10,000 per day
  • Miscellaneous costs: $1 to $300

Cost-reduction Strategies

As enumerated earlier, one of the most painfully obvious solutions is to avoid the costly court trials. However, a realistic strategy for reducing child custody attorney cost is more attainable through making financial adjustments in the attorney’s fees. It is important to take note of the following strategies:

Ask for retainer’s fee

Unlike the hourly rate, a retainer’s fee is considered an initial advanced payment for the lawyer’s service that is consumable within the certain period. A retainer’s fee is very favorable especially for those who have no idea what to expect about their child custody case. The biggest takeaway about paying a retainer’s fee is that if a case can be resolved earlier than the estimated timeframe, a portion of the ‘unearned fee’ will be refunded. 

Choose young lawyers

For anyone who expects a protracted dispute, the effort of reducing child custody attorney cost now hinges on finding a low-cost practicing lawyer. The most recent Laffey Matrix and Real Rate Report provides a keen estimate of how much a client will be paying. Just like any professional that capitalizes on their skill and experience, the ‘hourly rate is relative to years of experience.’

While the inexperienced paralegals seem to be the cheapest option, their relative lack of familiarity with difficult cases may ultimately cause a client to lose in the dispute. One may choose to hire an attorney that has 4 to 7 years of experience, costing around $200 to $300 per hour.    

Roll up your sleeves!

Miscellaneous costs are by itself non-essential. Most lawyers would charge extra fees for mundane efforts that can consume their time. In order to avoid racking up a maximum of $300 for certain chores reserved for secretaries or clerks, an effective strategy for clients is to shoulder some of the workload themselves.

These tasks could be anything from acquiring the requested forms to acquiring key evidence and witnesses. Apart from reducing the overall attorney’s fees, it also enables clients to follow the nuances and progress of their case more attentively.

Opt for alternative reimbursements

As mentioned earlier, not all child custody cases may end in mediation. If a client is looking at the possibility of settling disputes in the court room, reducing child custody lawyer cost could mean avoiding attorney’s fees entirely. It is possible for certain clients to acquire the services of the lawyer by paying in property or labor.

While not all low-income clients have real estate properties to trade, most of them could offer their time and skills for freelance work in their office. Case in point: potential clients with programming skills could hire themselves to develop or update the lawyer’s official website database for free to cover the overall cost of the lawyer’s hourly rate or retainer fee. It is even possible for some clients to offer their skills outside the lawyer’s office (e.g. home improvement projects, landscaping, medical services, etc). Considering that they are experts in terms of determining legitimate deals, lawyers are often agreeable to these kinds of flexible offers.

All about Pro Bono Lawyers

Considering the relative enormity of the child custody lawyer cost, some beleaguered parents may be unable to pay the lawyer’s fee no matter how hard they make ends meet. Fortunately, it is possible to acquire the services of an attorney for free (no kidding). In fact, penniless consumers should only take note of the word pro bono.

Pro bono publico is a term used to describe a policy of rendering free legal service to any client. The sad reality is this: out of 40% of the population predominantly belonging to the low-income sector requiring legal service, only 20% of the collective need is being met. Due to this scarcity, the American Bar Association has implemented its ABA Model Rule 6.1 – wherein every practicing lawyer should aspire for 50 hours of pro bono service each year.

Seeking for attorneys who have yet to render pro bono hours may be a good idea to completely bypass child custody attorney cost. The Volunteer Guide menu of features a comprehensive list of dedicated pro bono lawyers anywhere in the country.

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