I am often asked by clients how much will it cost for my custody and divorce to go to trial. Depending upon the circumstances of your case, a client should expect to spend about $50,000 to $60,000 on a custody trial and an additional $30,000 to $40,000 on a divorce trial.
I recently tried a straight forward custody trial for a client. The spouse had moved out of the house; and the child resided in the family home in Germantown with my client for almost year. The parties were on the verge of signing an agreement that stated my client would have sole residential custody. However, the spouse inexplicably quit her job, moved out of state, and filed a complaint for divorce and custody. The court held a 3-day custody trial via zoom in late 2020. My client was awarded custody of the child; and she incurred about $50,000 in legal fees. Fortunately, she was able to raise almost $45,000 on gofundme to pay my legal fees.
In early 2021, I tried a divorce case in which the parties were married for almost 20 years and separated for more than 3-years. Despite the fact that there was little disagreement as to character and value of marital and non-marital property, the opposing party was unwilling to enter into an agreement. The court conducted a 2-day trial divorce via zoom; and my client was awarded all of the relief that she had requested. My client incurred about $30,000 in legal fees for the divorce trial. The court also awarded her a judgment of more than $3,000 against her ex-husband for attorney’s fees.
The good news is that there is a 95% to 99% chance for any given family law case that the parties will avoid a trial by reaching a settlement. There are 3 main reasons why almost every family law settles: (1) most clients cannot afford the expense of going to trial; (2) it is usually a foregone conclusion how the court will rule, if a trial were to take place; and (3) the entire court system is designed to help parties reach a settlement to avoid the cost and risk of a trial.
If every custody case and divorce case went to trial, there would be at least a 5-year backlog to obtain a trial date. To help parties reach a settlement in custody cases, the court can order a custody evaluation, appoint best interest attorney for a child, and require the parties to attend custody mediation conducted by a retired judge or an experienced family law attorney. For divorce cases, the court will order the parties to mediate their dispute, prepare a joint property statement, and attend a settlement conference.