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What a Child Support lawyer can do for you

Getting the other parent to pay the child support they owe you can be hard, but hiring a child support lawyer can help you figure out what your options are and choose what to do. It's very common for many people to refuse to pay child support. Hiring a lawyer experienced in child support issues will help you navigate the legal system, and if possible, get you the money that you're owed so that you can properly provide for your child.

How a child support attorney can help

Whether you're determining child support as part of your divorce settlement or you're an unmarried parent seeking legal support, an attorney can make the process streamlined for you. Disputes involving children and money can quickly become volatile and turn towards discussing child custody. An attorney can objectively negotiate on your behalf to protect your child's interest.

Child support lawyers can:

  • File a petition for support and request a child support order.
  • Answer a child support petition.
  • Establish paternity.
  • Prove income.
  • Locate the other parent.
  • Subpoena the other parent's financial information.
  • Determine the factors the court will look at in calculating amount of support.
  • Explain your child support enforcement options.
  • Estimate how much support you can receive from the other parent.
  • Explain the tax consequences of a child support order.
  • Negotiate with the other parent to reach an agreement. *Represent you in court.

How much will a child support case cost?

In general, child support cases cost $2,000 to $5,000. The amount you pay will depend on the goals of your case.

Some lawyers charge a flat fee for simple cases that only require paperwork. This might occur if your case is an uncontested request to change your child support order.

However, many child support cases are time-consuming. Lawyers usually charge an hourly rate between $100 and $400. The lawyer will often request a retainer from you before taking your case.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is a fee that you pay in advance. The lawyer estimates the number of hours, filing fees, and tests your case will need. The lawyer then requests a retainer fee to take your case. He or she will deduct the cost of doing business from the retainer. When that money runs out, you will receive a bill and a request for funds to continue if necessary.

Some lawyers do not refund unused money in your retainer. Some lawyers can also take payments online or set up payment plans as well. Remember, you are paying for his or her advice, so use them wisely.

6 questions to ask a child support lawyer

You should come prepared to your initial consultation with your family lawyer. Bring any documents requested and bring a list of questions important to your case. Make sure you have a clear goal in mind before interviewing a lawyer, like reducing the child support you were ordered to pay or increasing the child support your children receive.

Besides your attorney's experience and scope of practice, it’s crucial that you work well together. Is your lawyer helpful? Does your lawyer answer your questions as quickly as possible? Does your lawyer understand your goal? Depending on how your potential lawyer answers the following questions, you may need to compare a few lawyers to find the right fit for your situation.

  • Do they have experience with cases like yours? For example, a family lawyer could be skilled in handling divorce, but may not have as much experience changing the amount of child support awarded. You may need to have a criminal lawyer if you are currently incarcerated in addition to help you navigate the system.
  • Can the lawyer provide references? Recommendations from other lawyers or review from past clients should be able to tell you about what it was like to work with your lawyer.
  • What are the possible outcomes of your case? What are the pros and cons for each outcome? What can you do next if the outcome is not in your favor?
  • What certifications and memberships does the attorney have in areas of family law? For example, some state bar associations offer special certification in family law.
  • If it is a large firm, who will handle your case? Sometimes a lawyer has associates that help. If this is the case, what will their roles be when handling this case?
  • What does your attorney charge? If the attorney requests a retainer, will any money be refunded if it is not used?

Documents to share with your lawyer

Child support issues always require documentation. Below are some records you will need to collect before proceeding with your case:

  • Tax returns for the last two years or more
  • Pay records for the last two years or more
  • Stocks, bonds, and retirement account records
  • Purchase and bill of sale records for land, homes or other assets
  • Outstanding debts or a change in debt such as bankruptcy
  • Previous court documents pertaining to your case, like your divorce decree
  • Documentation regarding change of employment status
  • Adoption or paternity records
  • Previous child support payment records
  • Any additional child support forms

Did you know?

An estimated 37.5 million custodial parents are owed back child support in the United States.