If you are a father trying to gain custody of your children, most custody attorneys will charge a retainer. This fee will be used to bill against the hours your lawyer will spend fighting your case. Depending upon your location, the billable rates can vary dramatically. If you are planning on a long and drawn out custody battle, you should start setting money aside as soon as possible.
Various Types of Custody
There are a number of custody arrangements that the parents can make. Some of the variations include:
- Physical Custody—The parent who has physical custody for the greater part of the time will be the primary caretaker. They will be responsible for determining where the child will live and looking after their daily needs.
- Legal Custody—When a parent has legal custody, he or she will have the right to make decisions on how the child will be raised. These may include where the child will go to school, the type of religion they will be raised with and any medical decisions that need to be made. Joint legal custody is when both parents share in this responsibility.
- Joint Custody—This is the type of custody most often awarded to parents during a divorce. One spouse may have the children more often, but they can still retain legal custody. The mother may have the children during the school year while the father has them during spring or summer breaks.
- Split Custody—This arrangement is when both parents share the equally in the amount of time spent with the kids. Sometimes referred to as “Bird Nesting”, it can also apply when the parents split up the children. Family court judges don’t often separate siblings unless there is an extremely good reason.
- Sole Custody—Sole physical and legal custody is rarely given to one parent. This might happen if one parent has died or been deemed physically and/or mentally incapable of taking care of the child. The judge may grant sole custody to a single mother in cases where the biological father is unknown or cannot be found.
What a Lawyer Will Cost You
The rates that most family law attorneys charge are typically $150 to $400 per hour, depending on where they are located. Some will charge whatever the current market will bear. They may request an initial retainer when they agree to handle your case. These fees can start at $3,500, but you may end up paying over $20,000 if you end up in a custody fight. Some lawyers may not charge for an initial consultation, but most will charge a fee of $100 or $200 for their time.
Saving Money When Hiring a Lawyer
Yes, you can actually save money by seeking legal help. A legal professional can help by suggesting alternatives to duking it out in family court. They know which mediators provide alternative dispute resolution to ensure that all the parties involved are open to communicating without accusations and screaming. They can assist the couple in calmly filling out a parenting plan together. In addition, your attorney will know how much child support and alimony the court will order, which is usually less than what your wife may be telling you.
How an Attorney Can Help
Your children are your most precious assets and most parents will fight for custody when they truly believe the other parent might cause harm to the child. It may be worthwhile to spend money to ensure their safety.