When a couple ends a relationship, things become more complex and emotionally charged when children are involved. This intensifies when the adults involved cannot agree on the best outcome for those children. There are certainly good reasons to engage in a custody dispute. Parents do this to ensure they will obtain adequate time with their children, for example, or even to protect them from being exposed to unhealthy behaviors. Even two good parents can disagree on what’s best when it comes to the child's education or upbringing.
Still, it’s important for parents to know what a custody case entails. There are emotional costs to be sure. There are also financial costs, and it’s important to be aware of those.
Typical Elements in a Colorado Child Custody Case
When custody of children cannot be decided amicably, several things can take place. The couple may be sent to mediation to attempt to come to an agreement. Each parent’s attorney may work with them to settle the matter without going to court. The final option is that each side goes before a judge with their attorneys to present their case.
Custody cases usually involve:
- Deciding where the child will live primarily
- How often the non-residential parent will see the child
- Determining who gets to make major decisions regarding the child
- Where the child will go during holidays
In some cases, parental behavior is a concern. One parent might request the other parent only have supervised visitation, or that the other parent abstain from alcohol or drugs in the presence of the child.
Ultimately, a decision is rendered. For the courts, the standard applied is the best interest of the child. Parents in a custody battle should be aware that the court could side with them completely, not at all, or give each parent some of what they ask for in a co-parenting arrangement. The court may also step in and add their own stipulations or requirements, including mandatory parenting classes for instance.
Parents who want to fight for custody will need to:
- Hire a qualified attorney
- Travel to court appearances
- Provide documentation and other evidence
- Fill out paperwork
Custody Dispute Costs
The cost of each of these things can vary. Obviously, a highly contentious custody battle fought out in court that lasts for months is going to cost significantly more than a battle that is settled by the parents and their attorneys over a few weeks. However, even if you chose the mediation option, there are still fees involved. A mediation specialist typically charges between $100-$350 per hour.
A custody evaluation (or Parental Responsibility Evaluation as they are called in Colorado) are another pricey aspect of the matter. These can be order by court in case the mediation failed and you are now going to a trial. The estimated rate for a parenting responsibilities evaluation report is between $2,500-$3,000.
In some cases, the court may also appoint a Guardian ad litem - a legal representative to advocate for the child's best interests during the hearings. Such attorney are usually selected from a database maintained by the the Office of the Child’s Representative. The fees of the Guardian ad litem are expected to be paid through the Office of the Child’s Representative as well and can range anywhere from $15 to $100 per hour.
To prepare themselves financially, parents should start by talking to an attorney who understands Colorado parental rights and can help them prepare for the custody battle. The lawyer they choose will provide them with information on their rates, as well as extra expenses that could come up based on your situation.
Once they do that, they can begin considering other expenses. These might include the cost of travel to and from court, investing in DNA testing, paying for parenting classes, lost wages from missing work, and other exceptional expenses such as filing for a restraining order.
The Best Way to Save Money in a Custody CASE
The least expensive custody battles are those that are settled quickly and as amicably as possible. The best way to achieve this is to hire an experienced attorney who can get results quickly, and understands the family law system. Parents who do this, and are careful to act in the best interest of their children, have a chance at getting the results they want.
Contact us today to learn how our trusted Family Law attorneys can help you in your child custody case.