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Author Topic: Court costs and such  (Read 3942 times)


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Court costs and such
« on: Aug 23, 2009, 02:26:33 PM »
My stepdaughter lives 1000 miles away from us. BM has custody while we only have visitation. The custody arrangement was made over 5 years ago when SD was only 2 1/2. Since then many factors have changed and we are concerned about SD's welfare.

We believe a custody modification is necessary to ensure SD's emotional stability. At the very least we would like to obtain joint legal custody so that BM must consult with us before making important decisions in SD's life. Currently BM has been moving SD from one apartment to another, generally moving at least twice each year. Since SD started school 2 years ago, BM has moved at least 4 times causing SD to be enrolled in 3 different schools.

There are other issues creating distress for SD that would be remedied if BM had to have our permission before making decisions. Ideally we would love for SD to come live with us, but we are hesitant to push for that big of a change because we worry about the emotional ramifications it will have on her if BM becomes enraged and attempts to alienate SD from us.

We are afraid we won't be able to afford the cost of a custody battle, especially if we have to pay her attorney fees as well. We filed contempt charges on her once because she refused to allow visitation as she was supposed to. Since BM had to fly up here for court, she decided that she was going to ask the court to make us pay for her expenses. She made sure she spent over $1000 for a simple one day trip that shouldn't have cost more than $500.

Luckily she didn't get her wish since the judge ordered her to give us the visitation time we requested and she never even specifically brought up that she wanted to make us pay for her travel. I just worry that if we file for custody modification she will do the same thing and try to raise the attorney fees as high as possible to make us pay. I could really see her hiring the most expensive lawyer she can find and meeting with him as often as possible just to raise the costs. There's no way we could afford that.

My questions are:

1. Will we be required to pay BM's attorney fees if we file for custody modification?

2. Is there a way to keep lawyers out of this to keep costs down for everyone?

3. If we file for modification, is it best to shoot for the moon and ask for us to be granted custody or should we only ask for joint custody?

4. How much are the average fees for a custody battle? (We live in Indiana if that matters.)


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Re: Court costs and such
« Reply #1 on: Aug 23, 2009, 06:23:27 PM »
Have you contacted a lawyer yet?  If you look through the yellow pages of your phone book for attorneys, some offer a free first consulation (usually for a half hour).  I would also check with the local bar association to see if there is a legal aid office in your area.  At least you would be able to explain the situation and see what the retainer would be and estimate of costs. 
It sounds like you would prefer to persue the modification without an attorney.  This may be hard to do if the BM is going to fight for custody. 
Currently, my fiance and I are persuing a modification to the CO in PA without an attorney.  His former wife does not have the funds either for an attorney ( by either I mean we do not have the funds either) so we feel we should be able to do this on our own.  From your post though, I am not sure going it alone in your case is in your best interest.


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Re: Court costs and such
« Reply #2 on: Aug 24, 2009, 07:52:40 AM »
If BM had to pay for her own lawyer up front and then wait for the court to order us to pay her back, I think we could probably get away without having lawyers involved. If we could just tell BM that neither one of us would hire a lawyer, then we could go ahead and file and just represent ourselves. But she probably will not agree to that and we will need to be prepared in case we do have to hire a lawyer and/or pay for hers.

BM does not have money to spend on a lawyer right now. At the moment she doesn't even have a car because she broke something on hers and doesn't have enough money or credit to get a new one. She is constantly behind on bills and never seems to have money when she needs it. So I doubt she would go out and pay a retainer for a lawyer but I have been worried she might be able to get the court to order that we pay for an attorney for her and that would cause a major problem right off the bat.

After the last time we took her to court (on a contempt charge), BM claimed she had talked to a lawyer and was going to file to have the case moved to her state. Our state maintains jurisdiction because it is where the divorce was filed, where they all lived for years prior to the divorce, and dad still lives here. So we knew she could not have the jurisdiction moved, but it was a bit worrisome that she may have found money to pay for an attorney. I think she may have used a tax refund to pay for the consultation. Or she could have just been bluffing.

I guess what I need to know is:

1. How does it work for lawyers fees in custody cases? Does each party pay for their own attorney up front?

2. If we would get BM to agree in writing not to have lawyers involved, would that hold up in court?


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Re: Court costs and such
« Reply #3 on: Aug 24, 2009, 09:18:32 AM »
You pay for your own lawyers (usually a lawyer will ask for money upfront and when it runs out you will be billed). You will not have to pay for her lawyer unless she proves you took her to court for something frivolous...

You can file and at any time hire a lawyer so..file and then see if she hires a lawyer..if not then you can try it on your own. You are both entitled to hire a lawyer at any time during the process BUT the hearing and cases goes on.

Custody battles will cost you BIG money...prob $5000 to start and sometimes it takes many months or years to settle. In order to change custody you will need solid abuse/neglect case. If you dont have solid evidence (dr's, police reports, report cards, attendance records, cps reports..) then maybe you should go for an increase in visitation instead....

During the case a law guardian maybe appointed for the child who will ask child what is going on and what they want. In some states the parties split this cost. Some states it is free.


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