Written by Canterbury Law Group

How Much Does a Child Custody Lawyer Cost?

The average cost of a child custody lawyer is $21,500 according to LegalMatch [1]. Child custody lawyer fees ranged from $3,000 – $40,000 in the US. *Disclaimer – This is not an actual quote. If you need an experienced child custody lawyer contact Canterbury Law Group to start your initial consultation.

Child custody cases can be one of the most unpleasant situations parents and their children will face., In addition to the impactful and emotional costs, it also can be financially costly. Usually, depending on the type of the custody dispute, a child custody dispute can cost anywhere from $3,000 upwards of $40,000.

What Factors Cause Child Custody Costs to Vary?

Although attorney’s fees incurred in a child custody dispute are undeniably a sizable portion of the cost, there are other factors which shall dictate your total expenses incurred. Below you will find a general lay out of the costs usually associated with these types of disputes.

1) The Type of Custody Dispute – Whether a child custody dispute is intensely contested will likely be the biggest cost factor. Normally, if one party is determined to fight for sole custody or is being uncooperative, the dispute will generate depositions, filing numerous motions, multiple court appearances, the hiring of child psychologists and other experts or professionals.  The bottom line is that these litigations take, time and money and the fees can add up quickly. .

Furthermore, while attending a final trial will always be the most expensive option, private 5-way mediation is not without costs. Private mediators are usually paid anywhere between $250 – $450 per hour.

2) The Hiring of Expert Witnesses – Regardless of how intense your litigation might be, the parties may need to go through a comprehensive family custody evaluation. These require stringent tests, one on one interviews, and professional evaluations, and can cost anywhere from $2,500 – $10,000. In addition, the family evaluator may be subject to deposition, or the other party may elect to hire a competing evaluator.   Sometimes a more cost effective option is to pursue a Limited Family Assessment ($2,500) or a Parenting Conference ($600).

3) Attorney’s Fees – Absent an extreme disparity in the parents’ incomes, each party is usually solely responsible to pay their own legal and attorney’s fees.. However, the judge does have the power to order attorney’s fees, and may do so if they find that:

  • There is a significant discrepancy in the party’s financial status; or
  • One party is incapable to afford adequate representation for themselves

4) Miscellaneous – There are other costs that many people do not even consider when hiring legal counsel.  Court filing fees can range from $100 to $400 just to get a case started.  Process servers can costs $100 to $150 for each service completed.

What Ultimately Dictates a Child Custody Lawyer’s Fees?

The primary reason that child custody litigation expenses vary wildly are:

  • How cooperative the each of the parties are;
  • How the lawyer’s structure their fees;
  • How many expert witnesses or consultants are retained;
  • How many motions or depositions are conducted;
  • Whether the parties are willing to mediate or if one party simply forces a trial.

As addressed above, whether a child custody dispute is ” amicable ” or not can have an immense impact on the overall cost of the dispute. In addition, how the lawyer and experts choose to bill the client can also have a huge influence total expenses incurred.

Usually, child custody lawyers either bill in the form of a flat fee or by the hour. If a lawyer charges a flat fee, expect to pay a minimum of $3,500 – $7,500. Just because their fee is low, it is in no way suggestive of a lower quality legal representation. It is simply an evaluation of what work the lawyer is expected to do dictated by the case complexity.

Therefore, if a custody battle is going to be quick and painless and only requires mediation, or just a few court appearances and papers filed, a lawyer will most likely require a lower flat fee. In contrast, where the case may necessitate several court appearances before a judge, arguing complicated legal issues, but can still eventually be resolved in a relatively civilized manner, the lawyer is likely to charge a higher flat fee.

How Much Does A Child Custody Lawyer Charge Per Hour?

Legal hourly rates will vary considerably based on the experience and skills of the lawyer.  A brand new lawyer straight out of law school may spend 5 hours for a legal task that a seasoned lawyer would complete in 1 hour.   Expect to pay anywhere from $195 – $500 an hour for a lawyer’s time. Bear in mind, a lower hourly rate in no way indicates the quality of representation, but simply what the local market has decided what that lawyer’s professional time is worth.  A lower hourly rate should not be the primary driver in your selection of legal counsel.  To the contrary, you might be better served by a higher priced lawyer knowing that your matter is in capable hands and will be performed precisely and with experience and care.

As noted above, lawyers who work via an hourly rate will also typically want the payment of an up front retainer. This retainer will cover a definitive amount of that lawyer’s time. After the retainer is exhausted, a client is expected to refresh the retainer back to its original level to keep the lawyer engaged.

With an hourly fee arrangement, it is not unusual for monthly legal bills to start to get into the $5,000 – $15,000 range quickly. Thus, this type of billing structure is more common where the parties cannot agree to a visitation or custody plan, one party is trying to move the child out of state, or any other complex and contested child custody dispute.

Which Fee Structure Is More Preferable?

One fee structure is not necessarily better than the other, and every case is unique.. A seasoned family law attorney will understand that. It is always a good idea to do your homework and learn more about what you are going to be paying for. Knowing the essentials of a child custody lawyer’s fee structure and how it works is the beginning to starting a transparent dialogue about any fee structure, and how they are planning on consuming their legal time to secure the overall best outcome for you and your child.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.


Izzi, Matthew. “How Much Will a Child Custody Lawyer Cost.” Attempted Murder Lawyers | LegalMatch Law Library, 15 Aug. 2018, http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/how-much-will-a-child-custody-lawyer-cost.html.

Child Custody Consultations in Scottsdale

The Canterbury Law Group should be your first choice for when you need the best Scottsdale child custody lawyer. Our experienced family law attorneys will work with you to achieve the best outcome for your situation. You can trust the firm to fiercely represent you, so you can move on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation!

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