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Consider Taking on Your Custody Battle without Hiring an Attorney

Updated on August 11, 2011

Dollars and Sense: What are the actual costs of hiring an attorney to win your child custody case?

Attorneys’ fees and their incurred costs start at $2500 for simple proceedings. If a case develops complexities, these costs can jump to more than $40,000. Naturally, attorneys stand to benefit when your case becomes complicated. This could translate into complicated legal developments in your case which serve to keep your attorney set up with a nice, comfortable cash flow that streams in as long as your case is prolonged.

Cases involving attorneys are significantly more likely to incur costs from additional professional services. These include psychologists, evaluators, supervisors, and advocates to name a few. These costs can add up to several thousands of dollars on top of attorney's fees.

To the desperate parents who need a win in their case regardless the financial consequences: An attorney may cost your child in more ways than you can predict. You may be the best advocate for your child in and out of the courtroom. Consider the following effects upon children who endure a drawn out court battle for their custody arrangements:

Placing children in the center of a battle for their custody produces the following distinctive and detrimental effects:

1. Self Blame: The child will almost certainly blame himself. Children are masters at correlating negative events with personal shortcomings. By placing a child at the center of a divisive dispute between the two people he or she loves and depends upon the most, one is leading them to personalize their hurt feelings.

2. Loss of Trust: Children who forced into the core of a custody battle often express a level of anger at one or both parents. This anger is typically produced by parental aggression and can remain unresolved through years of painful processing. Parents who attack one another in front of the child, or worse use the child as a medium to deliver attacks, wound the child with the power of the assault they intended for the other parent.

3. Development of Negative Relationship Skills: These are the “sleeper” effects of an ugly custody battle upon children. These are also the tools that your children will undoubtedly learn to use in their own relationships, as they have them modeled by their feuding parents.

Consider the following options to take your case into your own hands, and get the best results possible for the best interest of your children.

Top Five Myths about Hiring Attorneys to Win Child Custody Cases

1. Myth: Even good parents may at risk of losing custody of their children to their former spouse if they attempt to try their case without professional representation due to the many intricate factions of the complex family law system and their consequential deficiencies.

Fact: This is a false, but effective scare tactic that is universally employed by divorce and child custody attorneys. This perpetuation of this myth is the lock on the security door of ensured business. Think about it: Lawyers would not stay in business if their services were not considered essential.

2. Myth: Hiring an attorney will assure that a case is handled more quickly and efficiently than attempting to complete an entire custody case pro tem.

Fact: Attorneys stand to earn more money and trial credit from your case if it becomes more complex and drawn out. An examination of eight articles from the American Journal of Family Therapy which published results from several studies on this topic revealed quite the opposite. All of these studies conclusively reported clients feeling that they had negative experiences with their attorneys at the end of long custody battles which were prolonged by legal rabbit chasing type strategies. Ultimately these strategies had only negative impacts on the entire family, especially the children.

3. Myth: Judges prefer to deal with their colleagues, other attorneys, than emotionally loaded parents who are feuding over their children.

Fact: The effectiveness of this myth is in the presumption that all parents who are engaged in a custody battle present themselves in (and out) of court as “emotionally loaded.” In reality, judges prefer to get to the truth of a matter in order to make a decision that is in the best interest of the children. Parents who stay calm, focused, and intent on their child’s best interest are not subject to the threats contained in this myth that they will not be heard without an attorney to speak for them. Some judges also tend to respond somewhat tongue-in-cheek to parents who show up in court accompanied by high powered (and expensive) attorneys who try to convince them of their client’s justification for more child support or favorable financial settlements.

4. Myth: Attorneys provide their clients with a distinctive brand of moral support that cannot be reproduced outside of the attorney-client relationship.

Fact: This has become one of the most branded slogans commonly found on divorce law firm websites. Lawyers promise to bear the emotional cross of your divorce and custody battle for the mere cost of a retainer. What they do not tell you is that you will be charged for each phone call, venting session, and even email exchange. The more venting you do, the more they can charge you. Further, an attorney who is shouldering your emotions is not working effectively on your case; they are only billing you like they are working on it. Remember, they are professional convincers. They will tell you what you want to hear to keep your money coming.

5. Myth: Hiring an attorney will release you from responsibility of keeping up with your case prior to and after proceedings.

Fact: This is the myth that does the most damage to participants of the family court system. Attorneys are employed by those they can convince to trust them. They receive their retainers upon hiring, ensuring that they are paid regardless of the outcome of their promises. Too often, in too many courtrooms, parents are devastated by the consequences of unprepared and uncaring lawyers. The harsh reality is, no one will fight for your kids like you will. No one cares about the outcome of your case like you do. By employing the right strategies and keeping the right focus, you CAN win your child custody case without hiring an attorney.


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    • profile image

      Common sense 

      4 years ago

      Should not be lawyers, they make everything far more complicated than need be. Family law should be about right and wrong....

    • profile image

      Gary T 

      4 years ago

      I am totally onboard with this viewpoint, but it is not a cakewalk. It becomes almost a full time job to properly prosecute your own custody case. And yes you must be aware of the pitfalls, landmines and inadvertent waiver of presumed rights.

      Doing this is about as complicated and time consuming as going to a semester or two of college on a complicated topic. If you ever remember doing that, then be prepared for that kind of effort and dedication.

      You truly have to educate yourself in the law generally and family court law in particular.

      I did initially go pro se in my own family court case, because both I am a paralegal in other areas of law, and I simply did not have the $30K it would have taken to hire a lawyer. I did have to educate myself in family law, which I must say is far more unwritten policy, bias and presumptions than any other area of law.

      In that time I started my own family court pro se legal support group, Family Court Dads.

      If you meet the cover page criteria, I would invite you to join:

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      As a family law attorney and mediator the biggest problem I have seen with unrepresented parties (pro se - in legal ease) is either they demand more than they should expect to get under the law or not knowing how the court will likely rule on their case. Another way of saying this is they haven't been advised on what to properly expect as an outcome.

      In the former the issue is it wastes court time, increases attorney's fees for the other side and normally results in both sides feeling poorly about the outcome and the whole experience. In the latter, the issue is the unrepresented party usually gives up rights that are presumed based upon their case. An attorney would have been able to protect their rights or at least allowed the party to make an informed decision to give up certain rights. I have seen this more in mediation than in court where the judge has a duty to base his/her decision on the bests interests of the children.

      There may be limited cases that you may benefit from not hiring an attorney. In my experience, in cases where the parties are represented by reasonable attorney's on each side are more likely to lead to better long term outcomes for the children and to less bitter feelings about how the case developed and was ultimately resolved. There are "unreasonable" attorneys out there but they are few and far between and most likely are the result of a difficult client.

      Settlement yields, nearly universally, better results that are tailored to specific family dynamics, which the parties are more likely to accept and follow.

      In my opinion, what the writer is now experiencing (ongoing custody litigation) is either the result of an overzealous father or the result of obtaining a custody order by the court, which universally have a higher rate of appeal, need for future motions for modification, and violations and contempt proceedings. It is possible that the ongoing struggle could have been avoided if she had obtained appropriate counsel to resolve the issues before having to go to trial.

      Custody trials do more harm than good (in most instances). In some cases trials cannot be avoided and should be used. In which case an experienced litigator can make a real difference. Though since custody trials are tried to a Judge and not a Jury (in Minnesota and most jurisdictions), the effect of an effective litigator is arguably diminished to some degree.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am thinking of doing this, but it's so intimidating.

      My husband has a family of ten people paying for his very mean, very expensive lawyer. I hired someone I thought would stand up to him, but I have yet to see any results.

      My mother has lent me money to pay for her.

      She is out of money, and I just lost my job.

      I still believe in god a little, though I am not sure this matters as much to anyone out there as it matters to me.

      My husband is an alcoholic.

      I told him he had to stop drinking or I would leave. He stole my money and my children and kicked me out of my own house. He has everyone else convinced he is a devoted father, but I know the truth. He never came home after work, never really even knew his kids until now. I have documented so much he's done. I am just so exhausted already?

      I wish I could know what is best. Thank you for this post, I think it's inspiring.

    • Kari Winchester profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Herreman 

      6 years ago from Ontario, California

      Hi Michelle... see comment below. Praying for you!

    • Kari Winchester profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Herreman 

      6 years ago from Ontario, California

      Hello Michelle. First off, I want to express my condolences for your heart breaking circumstances, and offer you the same hope that has kept me going: I will pray to the God of Heaven for the Blood of Christ to cover you, your kids, and your case. Second, please note that I do NOT mean to give legal advice, as this is not my qualification. This hub IS based upon MY experiences, which are also extremely complex. My ex is STILL fighting for sole custody of my kids, and I STILL believe I have done the best job fighting for them in court myself. I have been able to represent myself as a strong, articulate, loving, and devoted mother who is unwavered by slander and produces grace under fire. The judge has gotten to interact with ME, not a legal strategy. I believe it has worked in my favor. There are absolutely some cases where help is needed, and if you think you need it then by all means seek it out. But I encourage you to research and inquire about the ETHICAL standards of the attorney, so that if you choose to hire someone, you are able to do it without inviting a snake into the grass. Whether you think that will help you or not, ultimately it will destroy your kids. Build up their dad. Show him kindness, as an act of will and NOT emotion. Stand your ground. Fight for your kids. I will be praying for you, and I am happy to answer any questions I can to help. Best!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What if you have a complex case to start with - ie custody being contested with a 14 year old - now other parent is seeking all three children to live with him full time.

    • Kari Winchester profile imageAUTHOR

      Kari Herreman 

      7 years ago from Ontario, California

      Thank you, kindly!! I appreciate your generous support and encouraging words!

    • manthy profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Nice hub - I'm gonna post this on twitter.

      You are a gr8 writer, keep em coming voted up and awesome


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