Child Custody Attorney Fees & Strategies

Understand the costs associated with hiring a child custody attorney

Woman hiring a child custody attorney.
Find out what to expect when hiring a child custody attorney. Photo © Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Once you've decided that it's time to hire a child custody attorney, you have some important decisions to make. Should you use an attorney recommended by a friend? Search for a lawyer online? Focus your efforts on finding someone with experience handling cases like yours? Take advantage of free and low-cost legal help in your area? Here's what you need to know about what to expect and how much it will cost to hire a child custody attorney:

Before Hiring a Child Custody Attorney

You'll probably consider several attorneys in your area. Before you decide which child custody attorney to actually hire for your case, ask the following questions: 

  1. Does the attorney appear to be honest? Pay special attention to the attorney's tactics and plans to help you win your child custody case.
  2. Does the attorney have experience practicing child custody law? Ask each attorney you interview how long he or she has been practicing child custody law and how many cases he or she has settled without the family having to go through a long, drawn-out court case. 

Understand Child Custody Attorney Fees

It's also important to have a full understanding of the fees associated with hiring a child custody attorney. A child custody attorney may utilize any of the following fee structures:

  • A flat fee
  • Hourly rates
  • A combination of both, based on the services provided

    If you're interested in hiring a child custody attorney, you should also be aware that he or she may request a retainer. A retainer is a lump sum of money, paid in advance for legal services to be rendered. (Think of it like a pre-paid credit card.) Each child custody attorney will set his or her own retainer fees.

    Generally, a retainer is based on the following:

    • The number of anticipated hours it will take to complete case
    • The complexity of the case
    • The going rate for legal services in your city and state

    Understand the Child Custody Attorney's Strategy

    In addition to discussing fees, you should also speak with each attorney you're interviewing about potential strategies for resolving your custody dispute. It's important to understand whether the child custody attorney's approach is:

    • Collaborative - Examples of the collaborative approach include mediation or arbitration where all parties work together to arrive at the best solution for the children and the parents.
    • Adversarial - An example of an adversarial approach would be a child custody attorney who settles cases through long, arduous court battles, which may be expensive and emotionally draining.

    For more information about choosing a child custody attorney, ask friends or family members for referrals. You may also obtain referrals from your State's Bar Association.

    Edited by Jennifer Wolf