Child custody disputes are not uncommon when the relationship between the parents has come to an end. When the matter cannot be settled amicably, parents may have to involve lawyers, a mediator, or even seek the court’s intervention on who the child(ren) will live with.
If you are paying the fees for a child custody hearing, especially without savings, your costs will most certainly increase the burden on an already stressful court case. The good news is that understanding what to expect in a child custody case can help you to minimize your costs.
The Average Cost of a Child Custody Case
“Most parents do not pursue child custody after a marriage has broken down because of the additional stress and high costs that come with it,” said family lawyer Nicole Bikakis of Dolan Divorce Lawyers, LLC. While child custody battles can be expensive, the cost may vary widely due to the many variables involved in a child custody case.
Under normal circumstances, the cost will range somewhere between $3,000 to $40,000 in total expenses. However, it can be far more expensive based on the case’s circumstances. Attorney’s fees account for a large portion of the overall total cost, but there are more factors that determine how expensive a case will be.
Here are some of the factors that greatly affect the cost of a child custody case.
Type of Custody Dispute
Much like divorce, there are two different types of child custody disputes: contested or uncontested.
Having a contested case typically means there is a challenge or dispute regarding how the child’s custody will be handled. For instance, if one party is determined to have sole custody and doesn’t cooperate or agree to anything, the case will proceed to trial in court. This often requires depositions, court time, and much more.
On the contrary, having an uncontested case means both parties agree on all the major issues. Since both parents already agree on most issues, an uncontested child custody case will cost a lot less to resolve than a contested case. In addition, an uncontested case gives the option to use mediation instead of a trial.
Although mediation is not free, it is the less expensive option. A mediator is often paid hourly and charges anywhere between $100 to $300 per hour.
Specialists and Expert Witnesses in The Custody Case
If the custody case is aggressively contested, the court may call a specialist or an expert, such as a psychologist or doctor, to give their opinion. However, these professional witnesses can be very expensive. Even if the dispute is amicable, the parties involved may still need to undergo a custody evaluation.
Custody evaluation, including tests, interviews and professional monitoring, also impacts the overall cost of a child custody case. It can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $6,000.
Besides the cost of an attorney, the overall cost of a child custody case will also include some miscellaneous fees. An example of a miscellaneous fee is the payment for the sheriff or a third-party process server who represents the other party, which costs approximately $30. Other additional fees might include the fees associated with filing the required documents and papers with the court, which can cost as little as $1 or as much as $300.
Putting It All Together
Child custody cases can be emotionally and financially draining to parents. Since these cases usually get heated and can take time to resolve, you need a family lawyer in your corner to ease your burden while working through this complicated legal matter.
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