If you are in a child custodial situation, or about to find yourself in a child custodial conflict, be warned: the costs of a child custody case may be more than you think.
You are likely to spend lots of money; assuming you are being represented by an attorney. If you are lucky, you will spend less than $10,000 when represented by an attorney.
However, contested child custodial cases result in tens-of-thousands of dollars in legal fees. The million dollar question is: why?
Here’s what you need to know about child custody conflict cases.
For starters, there are many variables that influence legal fees accrued during the child custodial process. Variables such as legal representation, family court trial preparations, parental rights evaluations, correspondence with your legal counsel, and unreasonable expectations can contribute to a high legal bill.
As a matter of fact, your initial retainer of $4,000 or $5,000 for an attorney to represent your case, will only get you through the initial paperwork at best.
Unfortunately, most people are oblivious to how their initial retainer for legal representation is spent. More likely than not, your very first retainer will not buy you any relief for your legal situation. In fact, an initial retainer will cover all the necessary paperwork you would need to commence the child custodial process.
Child custody is a multi-billion dollar industry. Do not let anyone tell you any different. Attorneys make tons of money at your expense, literally. Your tragedy pays their bills and for their lifestyle. If there was no money to be made in family law, who would do it?
Do Your Research
If you do your research properly, you may find tools that can help you through your family court situation. I highly recommend before retaining an attorney, you leverage any free resources your state’s bar association may have available.
Sometimes you can get access to legal clinics to help you learn about the ins and outs of the family court process. Additionally, you may be fortunate that the courthouse in your area offers resources supporting those that are looking to self-represent in family court.
However, it still takes an extensive knowledge base to achieve a basic understanding of the dynamics of family law.
Become knowledgeable in family law.
If I had to give it an estimate, it can take about 1,000 hours to become knowledgeable in family law and to be able to effectively apply the material learned. For most of my experience with family law, I was represented by an attorney for 4 out of the 5 years I was battling to achieve a fair parental outcome.
This period of time in my life took place during the years 2014 and 2018. By the time I would self-represent in late-2017, I had obtained enough knowledge from observing the attorney who had represented me in past hearings. I had the opportunity to learn from my attorney during my first 3 years (2014 – 2016) of back and forth litigation; at a cost of almost $100,000.
By the time I represented myself, it was because I went broke. However, I had issues that still needed to be resolved. My first two parenting plans did not fix all of the major issues my child’s mother and I had.
As a result, I decided to take a chance and self-represent by applying everything I had learned and observed from my time being represented by an attorney. Without going into all of the details of my custodial hearing from late-2017 into mid-2018, I succeeded. I advocated for myself effectively despite my child’s mother retaining an attorney.
Things to Consider When Retaining an Attorney
Most people have no clue – or complete understanding – about what they are signing up for when retaining an attorney to represent them in family court. Let me share some of my personal experience. Although not an exhaustive list, below are things to consider when it comes retaining an attorney to represent your legal interests in child custody.
- Attorneys are not fortune tellers of your outcome. They give you their best guess.
- Attorneys may promise the world, but they deliver on a fraction of what they had you believe they could deliver.
- Parenting plans are cheap to create – until an attorney helps you create one. You pay an attorney for every minute they are helping you to craft a parenting plan.
- All of your issues will likely not be represented – or heard – in one court hearing.
- You will probably have to return to court in the future.
- Some attorneys may advocate for your reasonable expectations that they know will not be accepted in court.
- Parental rights evaluations will create even greater legal expenses.
Here is my bottom-line. High-conflict child custodial cases are very messy. Although there are many good attorneys, there are also many attorneys that may view your case as a money maker. That being said, you can help yourself by researching and understanding the process as well as the costs of a child custody case.