Child custody cases are common in the United States. A report released by the US Census Office in 2016 shows that more than one-quarter (26.6 percent) of all children under 21 lived in families with only one of their parents while the other parent lived elsewhere. This staggering statistic simply means that more than ¼ of American children under the age of 21 have either been the subject of a child custody case or may potentially be exposed to one, as either parent may wish to legally formalize his or her custody over a child.
This article provides helpful information to parents who may be part of the above-mentioned statistics and are at a loss as to how to navigate the complex world of child custody laws in the US. Consider the following when looking for child custody law attorneys near you.
Who is a Child Custody Lawyer?
A child custody lawyer is one whose practice specializes in family law, specifically in all legal aspects of the ever-expanding field of child custody law.
What Does a Child Custody Law Attorney Do?
A child custody lawyer provides legal representation and advice to family members (usually a child's parent or parents) who wish to seek legal and/or judicial relief in the form of obtaining custody over a child or minor.
When to Hire a Child Custody Lawyer
If you are the parent of a child, you do not necessarily need a child custody lawyer in order to assert your custodial rights in court. This is especially true if you and your spouse or the other party seeking custody of the child are cooperative and are willing to negotiate and compromise for the best interest of your child.
However, more often than not, custody cases are quite contentious and dispute-ridden. As a result, either you or the other party (or both) will never see eye-to-eye as to what is in the best interest of the child. In such a scenario, hiring a child custody lawyer near you will be advantageous for you.
A child custody lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of child custody law, handle the voluminous paperwork, and advocate for you and the child before the courts. More than the legal help a lawyer can provide, a highly-experienced child custody lawyer can also provide valuable practical advice and instructions that will help you to be emotionally and psychologically prepared to undergo the turmoil and uncertainties that usually accompany custody battles in court.
Hiring a child custody lawyer will also be advantageous in certain specific scenarios, such as:
When there is imminent or threatened danger to your child's life as well as your own – If you are in a situation where the continued presence of your spouse or the other party seeking custody of the child poses a threat to your life and/or the child's life (such as in the case of child abuse committed by the other party), it is best to consult a child custody lawyer immediately. They can assist you in pursuing the best course of action that will ensure your immediate protection. This would usually include providing you temporary custody over your child and helping you obtain a protective order against the other party..
When your spouse or the other party also hires a lawyer of their own – In this scenario, your chances of winning the custody battle diminishes unless you have a child custody lawyer of your own.
When your custody case crosses state lines – Considering that different states have different child custody laws, navigating through these variations in state law will require expertise that only child custody lawyers can provide.
How Do I Choose a Child Custody Attorney?
Choosing a child custody lawyer has become easier due to the sheer abundance of information available on the internet. However, what has become challenging is how to sift through all the information and choose the lawyer that will meet your needs and be the best fit for your circumstances.
Nonetheless, before sifting through the internet, the best source of information on which specific lawyer to hire will always come from your trusted relatives and friends who have undergone their own legal custody battles and have hired a child custody lawyer in the process. Their own experiences (which may be good or bad) working with their lawyers is the best gauge of whether that particular lawyer will be able to provide you the quality legal service that you need.
If relatives and friends are unable to refer a child custody lawyer to you, you may then proceed to seek referrals from your nearest state bar association or the nearest courts, which often maintain a network of attorneys who render specific legal services, including child custody law.
How Much is the Child Custody Lawyer Average Cost?
The cost of hiring a child custody lawyer will vary significantly depending on certain factors, the most common of which include the following:
The amount of time the lawyer spends working on your case – This is because most lawyers bill by the hour, excluding other miscellaneous costs such as court filing fees. A typical range of hourly fees billed by child custody lawyers is around $100 – $300. However, some lawyers may agree to a flat fee arrangement, which takes the form of a single and fixed fee that is agreed upon by the client and the lawyer at the onset of the engagement. This type of fee is usually paid once a judgment in the custody case has been promulgated by the court.
Reputation and experience of the lawyer you hire – A highly-experienced and very reputable child custody lawyer will normally command higher fees compared to relatively new or inexperienced ones.
The complexity and novelty of the legal issues surrounding your custody case. The more complex your case is and the more research that has to be done, the more you will end up paying.
Length of the trial – If your case gets to trial, you will end up paying more if you are being billed by the hour. This is influenced by the number of witnesses that may need to be called, whether any expert witnesses need to be consulted, and the overall difficulty or ease of the trial.
Do Child Custody Attorneys Usually Charge for Consultations?
Child custody lawyers near you do not always charge for consultations with their potential clients. In cases where they do, the consultation fee will usually be minimal enough to cover the lawyer's time spent during your initial meeting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really have to go to court with my child custody lawyer to assert my rights?
No. In cases where your child custody lawyer has successfully assisted you and your spouse (or the other parent of your child), in coming up with an out-of-court agreement, there is no need to litigate the case before the court and secure its approval.
What will be the extent of my rights if I am awarded custody over my child?
Parents’ rights concerning custody will depend on the type of custody that the judge has granted – temporary, exclusive or joint custody. In any way, the parent who was granted custody has control over decisions pertaining to most aspects of the child's upbringing, including education, religion, and healthcare. However, the non-custodial parent may have the right to see and visit their child, so long as no extraordinary circumstances exist that will allow courts to deny such visitation rights.
What standard do courts employ in determining which parent must be given custody?
The most common standard employed by courts in custody cases is the “best interest of the child” principle. This principle requires that courts do a careful balancing act in custody cases by taking into account the following: what the parents want, what the child involved wants, the relations among the child, the parents, the child’s siblings (if any), and others who are concerned with the child's best interests, the child's level of comfort in their current home, school, and community, and the mental and physical health of the persons involved.