- Attorney Fee
- Child Custody
- Family Law
Friday, June 13, 2014
How much will a Contested Custody or Divorce case cost me?
Written by David Bliven
Family Law Attorney - White Plains, NY
I get this question a lot & of course the answer depends on how extensive the litigation gets. The more I have to do, the more the client gets billed. But some guidelines on the expected costs are provided below.
Because Family Court custody cases in NYC & Westchester can last 1-2 years, attorney's fees may be as little as a few thousand, and as much as $25,000 or more over that period. Thus, broken down, it means an average of about $1-2,000+ per month over the life of the case. Be forwarned, however, that in some cases, there is alot more billing towards the front-end of the case (e.g., when trying to establish interim orders of access, etc.) and towards the back-end of the case (i.e., when the trial starts). Thus, while $1-2,000 per month may be an average, some cases may see billing of $5,000 or more in a month, and then other months have only a few hundred dollars billed to the account.
Contested divorce cases often cost even more than contested custody cases, simply because all the potential issues between the parties are handled in 1 case. Thus, issues of custody & visitation, child support, maintenance (i.e., alimony) and equitable distribution fo marital assets & debts are all done in one case. Moreover, depositions are routinely done in contested divorce cases; they are rarely done in contested Family Court custody cases. A a result, the expected fees on a contested divorce case are roughly double what one could expect to pay for a "mere" Family Court custody case. As such, one may expect to pay as little as a few thousand and as much as $50,000 or more. Indeed, I've handled contested cases with counsel fees as high as $100,000 or more. If the client gets in over their head financially, a number of options are available, including borrowing against assets or retirement (though this may take court permission), payment plans and/or legal financing. It should be noted that, while I do offer payment plans in some cases, I do not offer payment plans to all clients & in all cases. In sum, in a highly contested case, the client should be forewarned about expected costs and should raise any payment concerns with their lawyer as early in the process as possible.