The statistics of divorce in the United States may have slowly dropped since 1996, but it is still relatively high at roughly 50 percent chance for every marriage. With a significant fraction of the divorced couples already having children, the demand for legal representation for child custody continues.
When it comes to the average child custody lawyer cost, the crude calculation may be as low as $3,000 to $5,000. However, it is important to take note that this price range only represents a relatively simple and straightforward dispute. For a more in-depth cost categorization, here are some of the types of fees any potential client must take note:
- Retainer Fee
In essence, one may think of retainer fee as an advance pay for services consumable over time. Lawyers would oftentimes prefer this type of payment from their clients because it is relatively more convenient to keep track. The lump sum paid expires when the services rendered has already exceeded the retainer duration, for which the client will begin paying hourly fees soon after.
- Mediation Fee
Mediation fee is especially intended if both parties aim for an amicable solution and are only trying to find the easiest way to achieve a peaceful resolution. The principle behind mediation only takes effect when both parties are will to exhaust all possibilities just to avoid a court trial. The average mediation fee is anywhere between $100 and $300 per hour.
- Legal Trial Cost
With court disputes, the child custody attorney cost will naturally escalate up to as much as $5,000 to $40,000. This is especially true with pitched legal battles. Since the length of the dispute is directly relative to legal expenses, the costs will keep on escalating until either one party waives one’s right (which is highly unlikely) or if both parties eventually agree on the binding custody structure.
Attorney Rates Based On Year Out Of School
Apart from the types of fees mentioned earlier, another way to go around the child custody attorney cost is the per hourly basis of payment. Of all the types of fees and cost considerations discussed, it is the hourly fee seemed the sketchiest. After all, this is the kind of transaction which often causes lay people to become either mildly skeptical or downright hostile towards the legal profession.
If a potential legal representative would charge per hour for the overall child custody lawyer cost, it is important to know the how to gauge whether or not the lawyer is making one’s worth count or just burning holes in their client’s pockets. The 2017 Edition of the Laffey Matrix is one of the most recommendable references for this particular assessment.
Novice Lawyers (1-3 years): $343 per hour
Novice Lawyers (4-7 years): $421 per hour
Intermediate Lawyers (8-10 years): $608 per hour
Seasoned Lawyers (11-19 years): $685 per hour
Seasoned Lawyers (20+ years): $826 per hour
The Laffey Matrix may not feature exact costs since it is mandated for practicing civil attorneys in Washington DC area. However, this format adjusted by the Department of Justice gives clients the means to an informed decision-making process in terms of choosing their legal representatives.
Hence, a novice attorney charging way beyond $600 is possibly an unreliable candidate. One could also guess that a seasoned attorney charging lower than $300 could also be subject to ‘reasonable doubt.’ After all, seasoned lawyers who are not thinking about pay can always represent ‘pro bono.’
Knowing Pro Bono Lawyers
Pro bono is a shortened derivation of the Latin phrase that means for the public good. What it actually means in practice is that a lawyer will represent a client without asking for a charge. Based on the same principle espoused by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, no person must be deprived of legal counsel and must insist on their right to have an attorney.
Considering family disputes, anyone can always seek pro bono lawyers in their area in order to skip the burden of any child custody lawyer cost. When it all comes down to numbers, nothing beats zero expense. However, it is natural for anyone to be skeptical about attorneys representing their clients for free.
Unbeknownst to many, the American Bar Association has mandated that lawyers, whether they are public prosecutors or private practitioners, must commit to at least 50 hours of pro bono service per year. In some states (e.g. Illinois) lawyers are not required to comply with the 50-hour requirement but they must still file an annual disclosure of their pro bono services.
At some point, lawyers will have to render pro bono services in order to retain their ‘professional integrity.’ This directive enables low-income citizens to seek legal counsel, especially when they are the wounded party at a very losing ‘financial’ end.
Why Win A Joint Custody?
As implied by the earlier discussion, the idea of a pitched legal battle is never consistent with a low-budget child custody attorney cost. But when court trials are unavoidable, the best strategy to curtail massive financial loss is to aim for joint custody. The quicker a legal party becomes agreeable, the faster the costs end.
What makes a joint custody advantageous is that, in most cases, it often acts in the best interest of the child. Any legal proceedings related to child custody must cater to the most aggrieved participant – the child – who suffers the worst consequence of having to live with disagreeable parents. Given this fact, it is easily understood that the court is more sympathetic to any party whose intentions are aligned with what is helpful for the child’s overall welfare.
Anyone who is obstinately against joint custody is practically putting oneself on the losing end of the case – morally and financially. When it comes to joint custody, the legal aspect (e.g. the right to decide for the child’s education and health) is much easier to work around than ‘physical custody.’ In any case, pursuing legal custody is, theoretically, the quickest way to curtail further damages.