How Much Do Custody Battles Cost?

Child custody cases are complicated matters that tend to be emotionally and financially taxing on a family. When a marriage or relationship ends, decisions regarding residency and visitation rights may need to be made in court.

Legal proceedings, filings, and child custody lawyer costs can be expensive; however, understanding the process can help reduce costs. It’s crucial to prepare for these expenses if you are facing a custody dispute over your children.

Your financial situation might have led you to wonder, “How much does a child custody case cost?” Our goal at Brown Family Law is to help you and your family navigate the custody process and understand the costs.

The Emotional Costs of a Child Custody Battle

The cost of a child custody case includes not only financial costs but emotional costs as well. Child custody battles can take a significant toll on both parents and children. These emotional costs cannot be measured in dollars.

Mentioned below are some of the emotional challenges parents and children may face.

Stress and anxiety

As a parent, you want the best for your children and would like to provide an environment that is best for their upbringing. But the possibility of losing the custody battle can threaten that intention. The uncertainty of the custody case results often causes anxiety for parents. The emotional strain of the legal process also adds to heightened stress.

Strained relationships

While child custody disputes can clearly cause conflicts between parents, leading to increased tension and hostility, it is important to note that there may be ripple effects reaching beyond the nuclear family. Ongoing conflict can damage relationships with extended family and mutual friends. Friends and other family members may feel torn between choosing sides and potentially testifying against the other parent.

Time away from work and family

Legal proceedings require a serious time commitment. You may need to rearrange your schedule to fit in legal consultations, meetings, and mediations.

These meetings and phone calls can take time away from your job or family responsibilities. You might be required to work extra hours or take a pay cut for the work you missed.

Behavioral issues

Children caught in the middle of a child custody dispute can experience a range of emotions. It can be difficult for your children to understand why their parents are fighting over them or why they have to choose one parent over the other. They may experience guilt, sadness, confusion, and anger.

These emotional challenges cause some children to exhibit behavioral issues. As they struggle to process their emotions, your children may act out in mischief or become withdrawn.


Frequent court appearances and disruptions in their routines can affect your children. This can create a sense of instability, which can have long-term effects on your child’s emotional development.

The emotional impact of a custody dispute can extend long after the court case ends. This affects your children’s emotional development, leading to heightened anxiety, insecurity, and potential difficulties in forming stable relationships throughout their lives. This highlights the need to lessen these effects and put the child’s mental stability and well-being first.

Ways to Reduce the Emotional Costs

It’s best, if possible, to minimize the negative effects of custody battles and prioritize your child’s mental health and long-term welfare.

Consider these coping strategies that can make the custody case easier on yourself and your child:

  • Seek professional counseling: Both parents and children can benefit from therapy or counseling. Having a safe space to express your thoughts can help you address emotional challenges and build healthy coping habits.
  • Keep lines of communication open: Co-parents should do their best to maintain open and respectful communication to minimize communication. Parents can also communicate with their children on some matters. If the kids are old enough, they may be able to express their preferences on some of the custody decisions.
  • Maintain your self-care routine: Don’t forget to take care of yourself through it all. Prioritize self-care activities such as meditation, exercising, or journaling.

Take care to address ongoing stress and work on any strained relationships. You can also plan for the costs of separation to avoid a heavy financial burden. 

The Financial Costs of a Child Custody Court Case

Legal fees are a significant part of a custody court case. When fighting for custody, family law attorneys are often involved and require an upfront payment called an initial retainer. Attorneys deduct their hourly rate from the retainer as they work on the case.

In some cases, a judge may order investigations, mediation, or appoint a guardian ad litem, resulting in extra expenses on top of the lawyer’s fees. If both parents agree on a custody agreement and asset division, they can save money and time through mediation and negotiation.

Factors such as the complexity of the case, legal representation, and the length of the proceedings influence the overall cost. Talking to your child custody lawyer about the potential costs can help you make informed decisions for your child. 

Costs associated with child custody cases in Utah

The unique circumstances of each child custody court case make it difficult to give an exact cost. However, knowing that a custody evaluation in Utah ranges from $7,500 to $10,000, and that legal fees can shoot past even $50,000, gives you only an idea of the possible cost of a child custody case. The total sum may depend on the following factors.

Court filing fees

Starting a custody case involves paying filing fees, which vary by state. The filing fee for child custody lawyers in Utah is $360. There may be additional fees for serving papers, uploading documents online, and more. All in all, the cost in Utah for a custody case is around $400 on average.

Attorney fees

Custody attorney fees vary depending on the complexity of the case. The child custody lawyer cost may be expensive if the parents cannot agree.

For uncontested child custody cases, lawyers might charge a flat fee for child custody services. The flat fee will probably be less than the cost of a contested case.

For contested child custody cases, attorneys usually ask for a retainer fee. Contested court cases with custody lawyers may require depositions and more court time, which will increase their costs. It’s recommended that each parent retain a family lawyer to reduce conflict. 

The need for mediation

In some states, like Utah, mediation is a required step for couples with children in custody cases. Mediators are often experienced child custody lawyers. The Utah State Court estimates that mediators charge varying fees, ranging from $30 to $300 per hour. 

Type of custody dispute

An uncontested case is when both parents agree. A case like this can save money and time and even allow mediation instead of a trial, which is cheaper.

An uncontested child custody case often costs less than contested cases because uncontested cases are quicker to resolve. Uncontested cases can sometimes be managed without a child custody attorney’s services. 

The cost of expert witnesses in custody cases

Custody cases may require expert witnesses like psychologists or doctors to provide their opinions, but their fees can be high. Even in more peaceful cases, the parties involved might need to go through custody evaluations, which include tests and interviews, adding to the cost. 

Miscellaneous fees

Miscellaneous fees, such as paying for a sheriff or process server and filing court documents, also contribute to the total cost. Additional expenses can come from a court appearance, filing fees, serving legal documents, and DNA paternity tests, with court-admissible results costing more. 

Who covers the costs of the child custody lawsuit?

Usually, both parties must pay for their own legal fees, including lawyer’s services and court fees. But if one side cannot afford legal representation from a family law attorney, the judge might order that the other pay the attorney fees. However, if those costs would cause undue financial hardship to that person, the judge may not make such an order.

Other options to save on child custody lawyer fees might include legal aid from a legal services organization or hiring family law attorneys for specific tasks. In cases of domestic violence, the judge might order the abusive parent to cover all court, attorney, evaluation, and expert witness fees. 

Strategies to Minimize Financial Costs

Putting strategies in place going into a child custody case can help parents avoid unnecessary costs. Here are some strategies for you to consider:

  • Focus on the children: Establish the child’s well-being as a priority for both parents. Always keep your child’s best interests at the forefront of all decisions in a child custody case.
  • Make a realistic budget: A good financial plan can help you estimate the costs of the custody case and stick closely to your budget. The financial plan will help you focus on the necessary legal expenses.
  • Consult a mediator: During mediation, a mediator will evaluate the facts of your case and develop a parenting plan agreed upon by both parties.

This process involves deciding on a child custody agreement, visitation schedules, and decision-making responsibilities. Mediation is an out-of-court resolution that can be less expensive than a court battle. 

Get a Legal Consultation From an Experienced Utah Child Custody Lawyer

Child custody cases often take a toll, unfortunately, on your family’s emotions and finances. Handling settlement negotiations and court appearances adds more stress to an already stressful court case, especially if you don’t have a lawyer by your side.

Brown Family Law’s child custody attorneys are ready to help lighten your load. We can take on your family law case and provide legal counsel for your needs. You can be sure that when we handle your custody battle, we will be committed to providing the utmost care so as to reduce the hardship for you and your children.

Schedule an initial consultation with Brown Family Law today. Call us 24/7 at 801-685-9999 to speak with a live representative.


Published On: September 25th, 2023Categories: Child CustodyComments Off on How Much Do Custody Battles Cost?
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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