If you ask a lawyer a question about your legal situation, their response
may well be, “It depends.” Years of seeing a number of different
scenarios play out for different sorts of clients results in a lawyer
understanding that there is no perfect answer to give any one client.
This is true whether the question is about an aspect of their case or
what a specific sort of family law case will end up costing.
If you have been through a
child custody case in which you had
child support set up, you know what your prior case ended up costing you. I remind clients
that whatever the cost of a case, it is an investment in your and your
child’s future. This can seem like lawyer-speak sometimes, especially
when a case enters its middle stages and time starts to slow down and
it feels like it will never end. The question remains though- what will
a child support enforcement case cost if you need to go back and address
missed payments by your ex-spouse?
Attorneys want to an earn a living, but don’t want to drag a case out
Movies and television have done a great job of portraying attorneys as
money hungry. If it were left up to Hollywood, attorneys would be in business
primarily to help themselves and line their pockets along the way. Your
simple, open and shut family law matter? A “typical” attorney
will do whatever he or she can to string the case out and charge you for
the pleasure of doing so. Is this how it is in real life?
Again, since you have been through a family law case before, hopefully
your experience does not match up with this one. Lawyers do want to earn
an income, as do you, but there is one thing that movies and television
don’t tell you that I will. Lawyers are also busy just like you
are. While we want to earn an income, we also want to move a case along
the process efficiently so that you can reach your goals. Doing so ensures
a happier client and a less stressed out attorney.
Factors to take into consideration when hiring a family law attorney
From what I can tell after having met with many potential clients of the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, people in your position will typically look for experience, proximity
to their home and cost when hiring an attorney. These are all great attributes
to look for in an attorney, by the way. I also recommend meeting with
an attorney face to face to allow you an idea of how you and the attorney
relate to one another. This is not a business transaction, contract dispute
or personal injury case that you are about to undertake. This is a family
law matter that is near and dear to your heart. You want to be able to
trust that your attorney understands this and is willing to do what it
takes to help you achieve your goals.
Costs of a family law case in Texas
When you are trying to figure out
costs of your potential child support enforcement case it is necessary to consider that you are about to incur costs that are
beyond merely signing up with an attorney and paying a
retainer fee. Filing your case in Harris, Montgomery, Ft. Bend or any other county
in southeast Texas will cost a few hundred dollars at least. This is true
whether it is our office that ends up working for you, or another attorney
Once your petition is filed in court your attorney will likely utilize
a private process server to seek out your ex-spouse and provide notice
that there is now a pending enforcement suit in family law court. This
too, while likely not as expensive as filing the suit, will cost money.
You can ask your potential attorney in an interview what sort of plan
he or she has for serving your ex-spouse so that your case does not endure
any needless delays. It is extremely frustrating to hire an attorney,
file your case only to find that your attorney is unable to serve your
From my experience there is little need in a child support enforcement case for
mediation. Mediation is the process that you likely went through for your divorce
where you and your ex-spouse met with your attorneys at an independent
attorney’s office to attempt to settle your disputes prior to a
trial. This means negotiating with the assistance of the mediator and
ultimately signing what is known as a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA)
once a settlement is hopefully reached. This process takes the place of
a trial. Mediation costs typically between $300 and $500 (in the Houston
area) for a half day mediation, but can save you thousands if you consider
how much a trial would have cost in your divorce.
Child support enforcement cases don’t really function like a divorce
case. There is less to negotiate upon because the issues are much more
minute. Are you owed child support? Has your ex-spouse paid the support
to as stated in your
Final Decree of Divorce? What does the Attorney General’s ledger show as far as arrearages?
These are much more matter of fact questions that need to be answered,
and the opportunity to negotiate is not as great.
Initiating the Child Support Enforcement Lawsuit
In the beginning stages of a child support enforcement case you are paying
a down payment, also known as a retainer, to your attorney. This retainer
fee can range from $2,000 on up to $10,000 depending on the attorney you
are hiring. As we stated earlier the filing fees in most Texas counties
is approximately $300, not including copies for service and filing. Finally,
a process server will likely cost roughly $100 for you and your attorney
to utilize their services.
Preparing for Trial and Negotiating a Settlement
In an enforcement case there is no true “middle” of a case.
Once your enforcement is filed and your ex-spouse responds with an Answer
you and he/she are either going to each prepare for Trial or work towards
a settlement of your case.
I had a child support enforcement case about eighteen months ago in which
our client and the opposing party were able to work out a settlement rather
quickly where preparation for trial was not even needed. It ended up that
the opposing client had simply misinterpreted the final decree of divorce
and stopped paying child support too early. The misunderstanding was resolved,
a payment plan was conceived for the back child support owed and no trial was had.
On the other hand, I have also represented a child support client where
it look us until the day before a trial to settle the case and work out
a plan that would avoid a costly lawsuit. Indeed, preparing for a full
fledged trial and then appearing in court will be the most costly aspect
of your enforcement case if it comes to that. If you can avoid a trial
it is typically for the best due to the costs and risks associated with
this final step.
Additional questions about the costs of a child support enforcement case?
Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you are in need of experienced, strong and effective advocates for your
child support related enforcement case I would recommend that you
Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys represent clients in enforcement cases regularly and have
achieved successful results in doing so.
A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys
is only a phone call away. We schedule consultations six days a week in
our office and we would be honored to speak to you about the services
that we can provide to you and your family.