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Child Custody | Family

How Much Does It Cost to Get Child Visitation Rights?

5 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Affordable help in a child visitation matter can be obtained for between $500 to $1,500, with a free consultation, for those who use limited representation legal services. Limited representation takes place when you work with a lawyer on the difficult parts of your case, like reviewing your parenting plan or making court appearances, but handle other tasks on your own. It allows parents or other interested parties to get legal help that would otherwise be too expensive to access.

Most child visitation lawyers (that is, a family law attorney handling your visitation issue) tend to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 for a full package of services to work on obtaining visitation rights. They will charge a a down payment “retainer fee” that may be returned if it is not used in full. They’ll also have hourly rates that usually range from $250 to $500 per hour for additional work on a case. If your case is particularly complicated, there may be extra costs involved. Unbundled Legal Help connects people with attorneys who can offer either full or limited representation.

A child visitation rights lawyer can help you resolve a variety of custody-related issues. They can make sure that parenting plans are maintained, and your child’s interests are protected. Below, we explore instances when you absolutely need a visitation rights lawyer and how to cut costs on custody cases.

What Does a Child Visitation Rights Lawyer Do?

When a married couple with children decides to get divorced, or when unmarried people with children decide to live separately, the question comes up of where their children should live. Child visitation rights are the rights of the parent who doesn’t have physical custody (or other interested parties like grandparents) to see the affected children at scheduled times.

If the parties cannot agree on how to arrange custody for their children, the case will go to court where both parties will need to present their cases. The judge will then base their ruling on the best interests of the child.

A child visitation lawyer can help you with a number of specific tasks in these circumstances, such as:

  • Obtaining visitation if never initially granted
  • Drafting a visitation agreement – Hiring a lawyer to oversee the visitation agreement process can help both parents avoid pitfalls and make sure the child’s best interests are taken into account.  A lawyer will make sure the agreement covers all the important points, from virtual visitation specifics to the right to be a child’s backup babysitter. Omitting key points in the agreement may lead to future disputes.
  • Preparing for changes in your circumstances – if the visitation rights or the schedule for visits need to be changed, a visitation lawyer can help you amend, or modify, the initial agreement. The modification must be made in writing and approved by the court to come into force.
  • Enforcing an existing visitation agreement that has been violated – The parent with primary custody may not be granting the non-custodial parent due visitation rights, or a non-custodial parent may be abusing the agreed upon schedule. In this case, both parties may require a visitation lawyer to re-establish the existing agreement or draft a new one. 

While your results may vary, non-biological parents, grandparents, and other interested parties can consult with a family lawyer to seek visitation rights.

Lowering Visitation Rights Costs

The level of agreement with a child’s primary caretaker will have a major influence on the complexity, and the final cost, of your child visitation rights matter.

For instance, if you and your partner are in agreement about the changes you are making to the existing arrangements, your case will be relatively simple, take less time, and be less expensive. On the other hand, if you and your partner disagree on the changes in visitation rights, you should be ready for higher bills. The hours a lawyer spends on your case is another factor that has a direct effect on your final cost.

If you need to involve expert witnesses or consult other professionals to make your case, this will also come at an additional cost. For instance, to initiate a change in visitation rights, you may require the testimony of a doctor or child developmental expert.

One way to steamline the process is to minimize the amount of work your lawyer will have to do. If there is any paperwork that you can organize yourself, go for it: this may include financial documentation, personal files, any related documented proof that you want to use in your case. Limited representation lawyers are especially well-suited for persons who want to do their own documentation.

If possible, you should attempt to find agreement on as many points as possible with your co-parent. The more you agree on, the simpler your case will be. Sadly, in many instances, reaching an agreement with the other party in a visitation dispute is sadly out of the question.

Resolving Child Visitation Disputes Without a Lawyer

If you and your partner agree on the changes that need to be made in the visitation agreement, you may only need a lawyer to make the new visitation agreement legal.

If you are having a hard time coming to an agreement, another possible solution could be mediation. Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party acts as a facilitator in a dispute. This can be helpful if the parties agree on the need for change in visitation rights but disagree on some particulars. In some cases, mediation may even be court-ordered to resolve a visitation or scheduling dispute.

During the mediation process, both parties will be given the time to make their cases and point out the key issues that they see as points of contention. This will be followed by a discussion facilitated by a mediator whose job will be to help the sides come to an agreement. Note that you don’t need legal representation to participate in the mediation process and the mediator doesn’t have to be a lawyer either.

If there is no way to reach an agreement when it comes to child visitation, the next available option would be to turn to family court to solve the dispute. In family courts, parents can represent themselves—there is no requirement to hire a lawyer. If you choose to represent yourself, you will need to look into how family courts operate.

On the other hand, if you don’t agree on the modifications, things get quite a bit more complicated—and you might need some help.

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