How much will your child support enforcement case cost?

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 divorce or 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 across town.

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 ex-spouse.

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 contact the 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.


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