Costs Involved in Minnesota Child Custody Litigation
Nobody wants to have to draw up a budget plan for their effort to get custody of their child. In fact, nobody wants to have to pay to get custody of his or her child. However, the reality is that having a good lawyer who can advocate strongly on your behalf will make it much more likely that you’ll win that custody battle. And the other reality is that the whole court process, including having a good lawyer to represent you, costs money, a lot of money. You need to arm yourself with some knowledge, though, by reading through the types of costs typically involved in a custody proceeding and getting an idea of what to expect.
This one’s fairly basic. You need a lawyer, and you’ll have legal fees. Your lawyer will probably work on an hourly rate for a child custody proceeding; that rate will vary significantly depending on the area you live in. A downtown Minneapolis lawyer might be $400/hour while a small town general practice lawyer might very well be $150/hour. Generally though, you get what you pay for. Things you should anticipate your lawyer to spend some of those hours on include drafting (and redrafting, and redrafting…) custody arrangements, negotiating with your ex’s attorney, researching any legal issues that come up in regard to your particular situation, and interviewing witnesses. COST: $3,000-$20,000+
Your lawyer may end up deposing witnesses. A deposition is where the lawyer will ask a witness questions in a setting which is out-of-court but in which the witness is under oath. During this examination, a court reporter will record the witness’s testimony and will prepare a written transcript. You, via your lawyer, will be responsible for the costs of the deposition, including the court reporter’s fee. Cost: $1,000-$2,000
Witnesses at trial
Say you want a neighbor or friend to testify as to your fitness as a parent. As mentioned above, part of the costs associated with witnesses will be your lawyer’s interviewing of the witnesses, including both your lawyer’s time and travel costs. There are also other costs associated with witnesses, though. If you subpoena a witness to testify at trial, you will be responsible for their travel expenses and any other necessary expenses. The court may also require you to pay the expenses of a witness which the court deems necessary to have testify in order to determine the best interests of the child. Cost: $100+
If your decide, or the Judge orders you to, mediation this is an additional cost. Mediators usually charge by the hour in Minnesota and just like your lawyer, the hourly race can be $140/up to $400/hour. It’s usually a good idea to budget for this lasting all day. Cost: $500-$1,000
A custody evaluator is an expert who will spend time with you and your child (and your ex) as well as talk to many witnesses about how you are as a parent. This is very quick post (More on that in a later post). Cost: $1,500-$5,000.
And finally, having read through this list, you may be thinking that your ex should be responsible for some or all of these costs. In general, this is not how it works in Minnesota; the usual rule is that each party pays his and her own costs and expenses. However, there are exceptions for when one of you doesn’t have enough money to properly assert your rights in court, or for when one person’s unreasonable conduct contributes to the length and expense of the proceeding.
Also, keep in mind this does not include anything having to do with alimony, spousal maintenance, dividing a small business, etc. etc. The costs listed here only deal with custody fights. As you can see it adds up and can be expensive, it’s best to settle the case if you can, but if not get ready to spend an enormous sum of money fighting for your kids in Minnesota.
Any comments or question feel free to email me at Jason Kohlmeyer.