Child support is the money that either or both divorced parents are required to pay by law towards the cost of raising the children. In St. Louis, child support may be ordered by the courts or by the Missouri Family Support Division – Child Support Enforcement. If you’re wondering how much does a child support lawyer cost, you should know that the return on your investment could be invaluable.
Although every case is unique, Missouri law has set out a standard formula, which is used when calculating child support. The courts usually make their child support order based on this formula.
Whether you are paying child support or receiving it, you should ensure that the order from the court is in keeping with your specific circumstances. This is easier said than done and you may need help from experienced St. Louis child support lawyers to fully understand it and see it through.
Child support lawyers’ fees vary from case to case as they depend on a variety of factors. If you’re concerned about how much child support attorneys charge and how the costs of their services are determined, you’ve come to the right place.
How a Compassionate St. Louis Child Support Lawyer Can Help
Dealing with issues related to the wellbeing of your children can make you emotional. This is why you need to work with a lawyer who understands that these matters need to be handled with sensitivity and patience. This is also important to resolve these issues harmoniously.
The right child support lawyer will fight to obtain support for your child while helping you understand the legal guidelines to be followed in the state of Missouri. Here’s how your child support lawyer can support you:
- Obtain an order to receive child support
- Modify the existing child support agreement, if required
- Enforce child support orders, if the non-custodial parents do not comply
- Assist with paternity-related issues of minor children
In a nutshell, your child support lawyer will work to make the entire legal process as easy as possible for you as well as your children.
What Factors Influence the Cost of a St. Louis Child Custody Lawyer?
Some of the factors that contribute to the total fees of a child custody lawyer are:
- Type of Custody
Typically, uncontested child custody cases cost less than contested cases. If the parties are uncooperative, the dispute will involve steps like further depositions, filing motions, prolonged court time, hiring counselors or child psychologists, and so on. These can lead to increased fees, and therefore, costs.
Even if the parties are cooperative and decide to go for mediation, there will be expenses to bear. Mediators are usually paid by the hour. They can cost anywhere between $100 and $400 per hour.
- Involvement of Expert Witnesses
Some cases may require the involvement of a specialist or a professional expert, such as a child psychologist. In these cases, even if the parties do not dispute over custody, they may still need to undergo an evaluation.
Custody evaluations entail tests, interviews, and expert observation. These can cost anywhere between $1500 and $6500 and can increase if the case is contested.
- Miscellaneous Expenses
You also need to factor in the miscellaneous costs associated with the case and add them to the attorney’s fees. For instance, an approximate amount of $300 may need to be paid to the sheriff or a third party to serve the other party with the legal papers. Other types of paperwork will need to be filed as well and can cost as low as $1 or as high as $500.
The bottom line is that all these minute expenses need to be added towards the total fees. Other than this, the court may order mediation before granting child custody. This can attract additional expenses.
4. Travel Costs
If you hire an attorney that does not live in the community where your case will be heard, you could be asked to pay travel expenses. These expenses could add up quickly in cases with frequent court appearances. For that reason, seeking out legal counsel in your area could be beneficial.
No two child custody cases are exactly the same. While custody issues are rarely simple, certain disputes could lead to extensive and time-consuming litigation. The more complex the facts of a case, the more likely the costs will grow.
Common Types of Lawyer Fees
As mentioned, lawyer fees vary from case to case. A lot depends on their experience, track record, and the amount of work and effort they put into your case. A case that drags on for longer will attract a higher fee.
The common types of fees received by lawyers in child support cases are as follows:
- Consultation fee:This is usually paid after the conclusion of the initial meeting where both you and the lawyer decide to work on the case. Some attorneys, however, do not charge this fee.
- Flat fee:This option is suitable if the case is simple and devoid of complications.
- Hourly fee:Most commonly charged type of fee, is charged for the type of work done on a per-hour basis. This can include legal research and court appearance.
- Referral fee:If the lawyer refers you to another attorney, they may ask you to pay them a share of the total fee you will be paying for the case.
- Retainer fee:This involves a down payment for the services you receive. A certain amount of money (based on the lawyer’s hourly rate) is put in an account, and withdrawn by the lawyer as and when expenses are incurred.
The Costs of Modifying a Child Custody Order
A host of factors can affect the cost of modifying an existing child custody order.
If both parties agree to the modification of the custody agreement, then the order can be modified at little or no cost.
However, if the modification is contested, you will likely incur higher filing fees as well as additional legal fees.
The Costs of Child Support Enforcement
The process of securing child support from the court is only one step in the process. For many people, the guidance of an attorney is primarily needed in order to enforce these terms. A lawyer could assist with enforcing a child support obligation by negotiating with the other parent’s attorney or even pursuing a motion for contempt to seek sanctions against the non-paying parent. In either case, enforcement actions could result in additional legal costs.
A Child Custody Attorney Could Cut Costs in the Long Run
For many people, the prospect of paying an attorney to handle a child support case might seem expensive. While the court will not require that you hire legal counsel to represent your interests, it is best to look at the cost of an attorney as an investment as opposed to an expense. After all, child custody issues are important. Ensuring you get the best legal representation possible is valuable.
What’s more, there are a number of ways that your attorney could actually reduce the cost of a child support dispute in the long run. Your attorney could not only help ensure you are treated fairly by the court but also reduce the costs associated with a long, drawn-out legal proceeding as well. Some of the ways an attorney could help include:
- Securing a Fair Outcome. No parent wants to leave their child unsupported. However, it is understandable to want a fair outcome from a child support hearing. An attorney could help you put yourself in the best position possible to secure an amount of child support that is reasonable and fair.
- Limit Delays. One way the cost of child support lawyer could creep up is through lengthy delays. The longer a case takes, the more it is likely to cost. This is true not only for legal fees but also in situations where you are seeking a reduction of a support obligation due to changing circumstances.
- Paternity Questions. In some child custody cases, paternity is yet to be established. If that is the case, there are additional court proceedings that could be required before the question of child custody is even taken up by the court. If paternity has not yet been established, the cost of a child custody proceeding could also include the fees associated with DNA testing.
- Avoiding Mistakes. Mistakes can be costly during the child support process. Whether it is editing errors in a proposed agreement or mistakes in the initial paperwork, these errors could cause delays or even bring about unintended consequences. Your attorney could ensure your documentation is prepared correctly and on-time.
Who Pays the Lawyer Fees in a Child Custody Case?
In child custody and support matters, each party is responsible for paying their own legal fees. However, some courts do make exceptions in cases where a huge disparity between the financial statuses of both parties is established. This includes situations where one party cannot afford legal representation or when the judge deems it fit to award reasonable attorney fees, given the case facts.
When picking your child support lawyer, however, it is important to look beyond the fee aspect. Child custody and support cases tend to be complex and require in-depth knowledge of the numerous facets of family law. Having a qualified and experienced St. Louis child support lawyer in your corner will prove to be invaluable to your case.
The Importance of Discussing Lawyer Fees Up Front
It is important for a parent and their attorney to be on the same page from the very beginning. Disputes between lawyers and clients can be damaging, especially when those disputes involve legal fees. For that reason, it is in your best interest to ensure you and your attorney reach an agreement on a fee structure before any legal work begins. Some attorneys will advertise their rates while others will answer questions about what a case might cost at the beginning of the process.
Depending on the fee structure, it might be impossible to predict exactly how much these legal fees might be at the end of the day. This is an issue that can arise when an attorney takes on a child custody case on an hourly basis. While an attorney could estimate the number of hours they expect to spend on a case, the reality is that these estimates are not always accurate. Understanding the specifics of the fee agreement could help you avoid any unexpected bills.
The Impact of Child Support Cases in St. Louis
As you can see, understanding the intricacies involved in a child support case is no cakewalk. In fact, court rulings in this matter can have a huge impact on the quality of life of both parents. Working with a seasoned attorney is essential if you want to improve your chances of winning a favorable outcome. Depending on the several factors mentioned in the post, you should be able to get a fair idea of how much hiring an experienced St. Louis Child Support lawyer will cost you. You should consider it as an investment you make towards your as well as your child’s future.
Get Legal Assistance from Experienced St. Louis Child Support Lawyers
Our skilled child support lawyers are adept at handling not just the initial proceedings involved in child custody and support, we also help clients deal with modification and enforcement issues with a result-oriented approach. Call us at (314) 549-1029 for a free consultation. You can also contact us via our website by filling out a simple form. We will get back to you at the earliest.
This article was originally published on September 15, 2020 and updated on June 15, 2021.