Tag Archives: child custody

The Cost of Child Custody

How much does child custody cost? The cost of child custody depends on the child custody arrangements made by a third party evaluator. This article is an attempt of familiarizing the readers (parents) with the types of child custody arrangements and the costs associated with those arrangements.

Familial ties can be very fragile; a fact proven by the increasing divorce rates across the country. When children are involved, the costs – mental, emotional and financial – become even steeper. Usually, arriving at a friendly settlement, where the child’s interests and welfare are considered paramount, is less expensive and stressful; however, more often than not, the opposing parties end up becoming confrontational and it is left up to the legal system to sort out the issues and grant child custody as appropriate. Under such a complicated situation, many parents are left befuddled with many questions about child custody and wonder how much does child custody cost.

How much does child custody cost is an ambiguous question which gives rise to apprehensions. Such apprehensions are enough to confuse you, but remember, the custodial cost depends on the custodial arrangement. The different types of child custody arrangements and the costs associated with each type are discussed below.

Types

Child custody laws and procedures vary from state to state and it is important that you find out how the system works before starting any legal proceedings. In most states, uncontested child custody arrangements, i.e. those agreements which are mutually agreed upon, without any legal intervention, should be lodged with the appropriate court of jurisdiction. Filing fees range from $100 to $1000 at the upper end, inclusive of any administrative costs will need to be paid.

Overall, child custody arrangements (disputed or otherwise) are categorized as follows:

Joint (or shared custody); Full custody to one parent; Split custody; and Third party/non-parental custody, including the child being designated as a ‘ward of the state’.

Split custody refers to an arrangement when there is more than one child and each parent takes full custody of each of the children. This type of arrangement, i.e. separating children and assigning custody to each of the parents, is not usually encouraged by the courts.

Cost

Contested child custody cases can be very heavy on your wallet, especially when lawyers are involved and there is a necessity to appoint impartial evaluators such as psychologists or counselors. A brief break-up of costs which can come up during a custody battle is listed below:

Cost of initial consultation with a family law or child custody lawyer as a one-time fee or based on the lawyer’s hourly rates – $50-$500. Retainer to be paid up front once your decide to hire the lawyer to take up your custody case – usually a lump sum amount based on an estimated number of hours of work done by the lawyer – as above, the retainer can cost you $500-$5000 for 10 hours of work. Court appearances are charged at a higher hourly rate – $100-$1000. The cost of preparing, filing and court fees – up to $1000. Hiring of expert witnesses, custody evaluation experts, preparing depositions, etc – between $5000 and $10,000. Miscellaneous, administrative costs such as photocopying of documents, courier or postage charges, serving of summons, etc – up to $5,000.

The total cost of a contested child custody case can cost you anything between $1000 to $50,000, depending upon the procedures involved, the custody complaint filed by either of the parties, the court’s determination of the child’s ‘best interests’ and attorney fees.

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Divorce Information

What is Divorce?

Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. It is possible to have a separation period rather than a divorce – you and your partner cease to be in a relationship when separated, but legally you are still married. Divorce on the other hand is a legal process that can have implications in terms of the finances of the two people involved and custody of children.

Filing for Divorce

To file for divorce you must make a submission to your local Probate and Family Court. Divorce proceedings can’t begin until you or your former partner have made a formal filing.

There are two different ways to file for divorce. If you have already agreed with your former partner as to how you will deal with the issues of child custody and the division of assets, and all other issues that might need resolving, you can file a joint petition and have the marriage dissolved. This is the best possible situation to strive for because it helps you avoid the heavy involvement of lawyers and a possible court battle.

If you can’t resolve these matters with your partner, one or the other of you may file for a complaint for divorce. In this case you will need to hire a divorce lawyer to resolve matters by legal means.

Things can get a little confusing here, because there is another division when it comes to complaints for divorce. In one instance you and your partner agree that the marriage can’t be saved, but you need mediation to decide on how to split up property, child custody, and so on. In the other instance, one party does not agree that the marriage is beyond repair. This is a very difficult position to argue when your spouse is filing for divorce. In this case you are best to try to talk your spouse into a trial separation, rather than a divorce.

Alimony and Child Custody

Arguably the most important issue that comes up in a divorce situation is who will have custody of children produced by the marriage and whether or not both partners have access to the children. Be aware that if the divorce is occurring because of domestic violence, or one partner is able to prove to a judge that the other presents any physical danger to the children, that partner will quite likely be denied the right to see them.

It is best to try to come to an agreement with your partner over where the children will live and arrange weekend visits if possible. This is not always realistic however, as often both parties are eager to keep the children with them. Often stay-at-home mothers will be entitled to keep the children, and their working ex-husbands will be required to pay alimony – a regular payment for support of the spouse and children. Alimony exists because it is often difficult for a parent who has spentyears raising children to re-enter the workforce.

Division of Assets

It’s fairly well known that in many divorce settlements, assets are split 50-50. This is not always the case, however. In the case of a prenuptial agreement, the division of assets will typically be decided before the marriage even begins. Also, in the case that one spouse is proven to be at fault for the failure of the marriage – because of infidelity, for instance – then that spouse may not be entitled to any of the assets built up or acquired during the course of the marriage.

Be aware of the concept of marital property. If there are assets in your family that have been built over the course of your marriage, your spouse may be entitled to a stake in them even though they are in your name and they exist as the result of your work. They come under the umbrella of marital property regardless of whose name they are under.

Keep in mind also that as well as the division of assets, there may be a division of debts.

For more detailed divorce information, your best option is to contact a divorce lawyer in your area. Many will offer a free consultation.

Ending a marriage is never easy. I know. My name is Holcy Thompson and I’ve been where you are right now. That’s why I provide others with the information I wish I had known before I went through my own divorce. So stick with me and we’ll get through this together.