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How Much Does a Seattle Child Custody Lawyer Cost?

If you’ve become involved in a child custody dispute, it’s time to consult a Seattle child custody lawyer. But you also might be wondering how much a lawyer will cost. This article will explain how family lawyers bill for their time.

How much your legal bill might total is dependent on several factors, including:

  • How much your lawyer charges
  • How long your child custody issue will take to wrap up
  • How many other, related legal expenses you will have to pay

The kind of Seattle divorce lawyer or child custody lawyer you hire depends on your needs. If you and your child's other parent agree on most of the major issues, your legal needs are not complex. Just about any family law lawyer should be able to handle your case.

Maybe you and your ex do not agree about with whom the children should live or how much child support one parent should pay. In that case, you may need an attorney with experience in going on the attack. These attorneys may cost you more.

In general, most Seattle child custody lawyers charge their clients by the hour, called an hourly rate or hourly fee. If you and your ex agree on custody of the children, you may find a lawyer willing to work on a flat fee, which is one price for the lawyer’s time through the duration of your case. The two billing plans work differently.

Hiring a Seattle Custody Lawyer by the Hour

Child custody attorneys in Seattle calculate their hourly fee factoring in many considerations, such as:

  • Their experience in handling child custody matters
  • Their knowledge of Washington State child custody laws and child support enforcement
  • Their cost, or overhead, of running their law office
  • Their location

Location will affect not only how much they pay in rent, but each city or even neighborhood in a city has a “going rate.” For example, in Seattle, the going rate in First Hill may be different from the going rate in Victory Heights.

If you decide to hire a child custody lawyer in Seattle by the hour, you will likely be asked to pay a retainer fee. This fee acts like a down payment from which the attorney withdraws his hourly fee. When it gets low, your attorney might ask you for additional money to fund your retainer.

Deciding who should get custody of the children can be a very emotional time for divorcing parents. In your zeal to do what’s best for your children, you may lose sight of how high your legal bill has climbed. Consider asking your lawyer to check in with you once a month to give a status report on how much you’ve spent so far.

Seattle Child Custody Lawyers Who Charge a Flat Fee

Typically, only lawyers who handle very routine items – such as a bankruptcy or amicable divorces – would charge a flat fee. A flat fee only covers the lawyer’s time worked on your child custody matter. Many other items may not be included, such as:

  • Court filing fees
  • The cost of a third-party mediator
  • Photocopying
  • The fees for a paralegal who works on your case

You need to be very clear about what is and is not included in the flat fee. Additionally, flat fees are typically not refundable. This means you will not get your money back should you want a new attorney or reconcile with your ex.

Questions to Ask Seattle Family Law Lawyers

To understand what to expect and to decide if a custody lawyer is right for you, you’ll want to interview a Seattle child custody attorney before you hire one. Here are some questions you can ask about billing:

  • Do you charge an hourly rate? If so, what is that rate?
  • Do I have to pay a retainer? If so, how much would that be? Would I be expected to replenish it at some point?
  • Do you charge a flat fee? If so, what is that fee? Is it refundable?
  • No matter how you do your billing, can you tell me what other related legal expenses I may be expected to pay? Can you give me an estimate for how high they may go?
  • Can I check in periodically to get a status report on my bill?

When you have the answers to these questions, you’ll know what it costs to hire a Seattle child custody lawyer.