Custody disputes are difficult. That might be an understatement. More importantly, however, very few people have legitimate custody disputes. There are some parents that are really fighting over who has the most time with the children or where the children will live while going to school. However, more often than not, the real fight is over how many overnights the parent who does primary physical custody will have, or whether the parents will have an equal number of overnights. Regardless of whether you have a “custody” dispute or a “parenting time” dispute (which we will discuss collectively in this blog), you are in for a very emotional and financially draining litigation.
The first question we typically get is: how long is my custody dispute going to take? The answer is that it depends on how long it takes the parties to reach a meeting of the minds or, alternatively, how quickly the court can schedule a Trial. However, even that answer is overly simplistic. Regardless of the type of custody or parenting time dispute, it is very likely that your first step is mediation. In our experience, 80% of all disputes are resolved early in the litigation process through mediation or direct negotiation through counsel. For the other 20% of disputes, you are in for a long, emotional process that will likely include the involvement of mental health professionals and possibly judicial involvement.
This leads us to the second most popular question: how much does a custody dispute cost? If you get through mediation and the early part of the case without a settlement, it should not come as a shock that your costs are going to start increasing. The average initial retainer for a custody expert, who is a psychologist, is $7,500. The total cost for most experts, not including attendance at depositions or trial, can easily reach $20,000. Even more shocking is that experts can withhold their final report until their entire fee is paid. Add this to counsel fees and it is easy to see how custody disputes can become extremely expensive and asset draining.
If you have a legitimate custody or parenting time dispute, it is important to take stock of exactly what you are fighting about. These disputes can easily take six months to a year of your life and cost your family (meaning both parents together) over $100,000. If you have a dispute, we are here to help and, most importantly, keep your costs down. We do that primarily by not telling you what you want to hear. We know how courts typically deal with these cases and, therefore, we will tell you what you need to know. CONTACT US if you have any questions or want to schedule an initial consultation.