Every state has their own regulations pertaining to child custody and visitation. Some of these laws are complicated and require a professional with experience to ensure that your best interests are protected.
For custodial parents, there are a number of steps that you must go through before receiving child support. Deciding on custody and the amount of support the other parent must pay can often turn into an ugly battle. An attorney can help by making sure the proceedings go as smoothly as possible.
For non-custodial parents, the child support attorney can help represent your interests when establishing paternity (if that's an issue), and determining the amount of child support payments that will be required.
Many states require the parents to formulate a parenting plan which outlines the details for visitation and custody. This can be a very emotional experience, especially if you have gone through a bitter divorce. It's best to have legal advice when making these important decisions that will affect your family for a long time.
In choosing a mediator, you will save time and money and avoid a long drawn out court battle which may leave you emotionally and financially exhausted. A mediator is an individual trained in family law who can act as a buffer between your and your ex-partner. If you and your ex-partner are having a custody or visitation dispute, mediation is an option you should consider.
The parents meet with a neutral third-party whose primary goal is to help you come to an agreement that is in the best interests of your children. They seek to find solutions that work for your family, rather than letting a judge decide your fate. An experienced mediator may be familiar with the expectations of the court and can instruct you on how to draft a parenting plan that will approved by the family court judge.
Common resources for finding mediators are community mediation programs, court mediation programs, and organization such as the American Arbitration Association. The mediators found in the civil court system have been trained and certified as mediation professionals, and are usually the most qualified to handles these cases. You can contact the clerk of the court who can easily direct you to an available mediator.
The most important priority in your child custody case is finding a good attorney. Most people may begin their search by using the Internet. While this a great place to start your search for a lawyer, it should not be the last place you look. You can ask your family, friends, counselors and in some cases, even your minister for the name of a good lawyer. If you attend a local support group, you may ask members of the group who may have been through a similar situation. Seek out attorneys who specialize in child custody and family law matters. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation. You should use time this to ask questions pertaining to your specific case.
Attorneys may charge by the hour with rates ranging anywhere from $100 to $450 per hour. In some cases, the may charge a flat fee is the legal matter is simple and well defined. This would typically include an uncontested divorce or child custody case. They may request a retainer fee up front as an advance payment on the hourly rate for a specific case. The layer puts the retainer in a special trust account and deducts the cost of services as they accrue. During the course of legal representation, clients should review periodic billing statements. Most retainers are non-refundable unless labelled "unreasonable" by a court. If you decide to drop a case that your lawyer has worked on before the retainer has been exhausted, you may forfeit the remainder.
Sometimes the rates will vary according to the location, the experience of the attorney, and the complexity of your specific case. Get a fee agreement in writing and you may want to arrange for a ceiling or limit on fees. You may also want your lawyer to obtain your approval before proceeding beyond a certain amount in legal costs.