Child Custody Attorney - How to Choose 
Family Law

Child Custody Attorney – How to Choose 



Selecting the right child custody attorney is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during your divorce or child custody case. The outcome of your case can impact your relationship with your children for years to come. You want an attorney who not only has the legal expertise to secure the best custody arrangement for you, but also understands the emotional complexity of these types of cases.

Here are some tips on choosing the right child custody attorney for your needs:

Do Your Research

Start by asking people you trust for referrals to family law attorneys they would recommend. If possible, get recommendations from someone who has gone through a child custody battle themselves. You can also check attorney review websites like Avvo and Yelp.

Look into the child custody attorneys’ background and credentials. How long have they been practicing family law? Do they specialize in child custody cases? Are they certified as a family law specialist by your state bar association?

Make sure they are currently licensed and have a clean disciplinary record. Use your state bar association website to verify their standing.

Interview Several Candidates

Sit down for a consultation with at least three potential child custody attorneys before deciding on one. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. This gives you a chance to assess their communication style and how comfortable you feel working with them.

Come prepared with a list of questions such as:

  • How many child custody cases have you handled that are similar to mine? What was the outcome?
  • What is your approach to settling child custody disputes? Do you tend to pursue litigation or mediation?
  • Who in your office handles day-to-day questions and tasks? How responsive are you?
  • What are your fees, both retainer and hourly rate? Are there ways to keep down costs?

Pay attention to how well the attorney listens and answers your questions. Do they take time to understand your situation and goals? Do you feel they have the right temperament and tactics for your case?

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Consider logistics

Choose a child custody attorney located near the court that will decide your case. Local attorneys will be familiar with the judges and their tendencies in custody matters.

Make sure their office hours and location work for your schedule. You want to be able to meet with your attorney in person when needed.

Also consider the size of the law firm. A smaller firm may provide more personalized attention to your case. But a larger firm may have more staff and resources to devote to your case.

Discuss Fees Up Front

The cost of a child custody attorney can vary greatly. On average, expect to pay between $200-$500 per hour based on experience level and location. Complex custody litigation can easily cost $10,000 to $20,000 or more by the end.

During your initial consultations, ask attorneys about their upfront retainer fee, billing rates, and payment plans. Some points to clarify:

  • What is the upfront retainer fee? This is money paid in advance to cover initial work.
  • What is the hourly billing rate for attorneys, paralegals, etc?
  • How often do you send invoices? Are itemized bills provided?
  • Are there ways to structure payments or reduce costs?
  • How do you handle unexpected extra costs like hiring experts?

Don’t base your decision solely on cost. But make sure you understand the attorney’s fees so there are no surprises down the road.

Examine Track Record

As you narrow down your choice, look closely at the child custody attorney’s demonstrated success in past cases similar to yours. For example:

  • If custody litigation is likely, choose an attorney with a proven ability to negotiate favorable settlements for clients. Ask about their settlement rates.
  • If you expect your case to go to trial, select an attorney with extensive courtroom experience. Ask how often they’ve gone to trial and what their win-loss rate is.
  • If your ex has aggressive attorneys, pick a lawyer who won’t be bullied into suboptimal agreements for you. Look for someone able to stand their ground.

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and see real evidence of the attorney’s track record. They should readily provide redacted filings, client reviews and case results that instill confidence in their skills.

Trust Your Instincts

It’s important that you feel 100% comfortable with the child custody attorney you choose to represent you. This person could shape your relationship with your child for many years. Make sure your personalities and approaches mesh well.

Go with the attorney you trust most to fight for the custody arrangement you feel is right. The one who spends time addressing all your concerns. The one you are confident has the savvy and determination to secure the best interests of you and your child.

With the right legal guidance on your side, you will be in the best position to achieve a child custody outcome that protects your rights as a parent. Take time to research and select the ideal child custody attorney for your situation. It will be an investment that pays off enormously for your peace of mind and the wellbeing of your child.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody Attorneys

Here are answers to some common questions about finding and working with a child custody attorney:

How much will a child custody attorney cost?

The cost can range from $200-$500+ per hour, with a typical retainer of $5,000-$10,000 or more. Total fees often reach $15,000-$30,000+ for extensive litigation. However, costs vary based on location, attorney experience, and complexity of the case.

When should I hire a child custody attorney?

Ideally consult one as early in the process as possible, even before the custody case is filed. This gives your attorney time to advise you and build the strongest case strategy.

Should both parents hire a child custody attorney?

It’s advisable for both parents to do so, to protect their own rights and interests. Without legal counsel, one parent could be at a disadvantage in negotiations.

How can I reduce the costs of my child custody attorney?

Ask if they offer flat fee or limited scope representation options. Also use a junior associate for simpler tasks or retain an attorney just for pivotal events like trial. Consider mediation first.

How do I choose between two qualified child custody attorneys?

Go with the one you felt most comfortable with and trust to fight for your interests. Consider logistics like location and availability too.

When should I fire my child custody attorney?

If you lose trust in their skills or no longer feel they have your family’s best interests in mind, it may be time to switch. Poor communication or lack of diligence are other reasons.

Can I represent myself in a child custody case?

In simple, uncontested cases, some parents do represent themselves. But it’s highly advisable to hire a child custody attorney to navigate the complex legal process and emotional dynamics.

Key Takeaways

  • Interview several qualified child custody attorneys before deciding on representation. Ask about their experience with cases like yours.
  • Look for an attorney with an office conveniently located near the relevant family court. Make sure their hours fit your schedule.
  • Discuss billing rates and payment plans up front so there are no surprise fees. Retainer fees often start around $5,000.
  • Examine the attorney’s track record of success in child custody litigation and settlements. Ask to see case results.
  • Make sure you completely trust your child custody attorney and feel they have your family’s best interests in mind. This is a pivotal relationship.


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