With certain cases arise special costs that are decided to be incurred by a client because of special circumstances or strategy involved in their particular case. These are not costs that are automatically charged by our law firm in every case or really even most cases. However, some people are interested in them as they work with our law firm either because they have heard of them before and would like to learn more, or they would like to consider adding them to their case.
They are: A custody evaluator, or guardian ad litem, a private investigator, a forensic accountant, life coaching, or a special litigator.
Custody Evaluator, or Guardian ad litem
To hire a custody evaluator or guardian ad litem is applicable where there is a child or children involved in a divorce, or other custody action involving father’s rights through legitimation or simply to modify custody provisions because of a change in the circumstances or life of the mother and father since the divorce. The basic concept is both the mother and father would like custody or would like certain provisions of custody to be set for the children or child and the parents. But the parents cannot agree as to what the other one wants. So a custody evaluator or guardian ad litem can be brought in to do an independent report as to what the circumstances are of the child or children and the circumstances of the parents, and decide in their opinion, through their report what is in the child’s best interest to resolve the conflict.
Sometimes this is not applicable because there is no conflict between the parents as in an uncontested divorce, or there simply isn’t enough confidence in whether the guardian ad litem would write a report in the client’s favor. But most of the time, this extra cost is not chosen because it adds a significant amount of money to the overall cost of the case. A custody evaluator or guardian ad litem generally costs for varying reasons in quality through experience from around $2,000 upwards to $3,500, most commonly. It could cost a little more based on the circumstances of the case but typically not much less.
Again, this topic is a great one to strategize and discuss with your lawyer the confidential details of the relationship between both parents in an honest and straightforward manner so this an properly be evaluated as to being a good choice for your case and worth the added expense and cost. If the confidence is high that the custody evaluator would write a good report in your favor, then this can be a very wise move to hire a custody evaluator for your case. Especially if the other party, or other spouse or other parent has no glaring red flags that they can’t take care of the children.
The next one is a private investigator. Private investigators can be hired for two basic reasons in a case. The most common reason is because there is difficulty to find the other spouse or party and the sheriff’s department will have trouble serving them because they know that court papers are attempting to be served on them and they’re attempting to make it difficult. This is where a private investigator can come into play and can privately in a very personalized way find the other party at their work or at home or when they come and go from home or work or other places and serve them with the court paperwork to not hold up your case. This typically costs, depending on the location and the time it takes the investigator around $250 to $350. Sometimes a little bit less, sometimes a little bit more if it’s more difficult or farther away.
The second way a private investigator is hired is when there is key information or evidence that needs to be collected on the other party. This is more the traditional sense when people think of a private investigator. This also carries a great amount of decision making and strategy based on the conversation and plan with your lawyer over the case and the staff involved. What will the investigator be able to truly find, and what will they not be able to find, and is it worth it to hire them to get that evidence to clear up some issues that are believed to exist? That comes down to the circumstances and what’s going on. The cost for any kind of private detective work such as this is very dependent on the travel time and the amount of time doing surveillance and how difficult it is and how long it takes to follow them around watch them and get the kind of evidence that is needed. Typically from our experience, this can cause for some very minor issues, around $500. But most commonly, if you’re going to hire a private investigator it ends up costing around $750 to $1500 range is the most common price range to hire a private investigator. Again sometimes a little less depending on a simpler project or task and sometimes a little more if it’s more complex and it’s going to take more time and effort by the private investigator.
The next special circumstance to incur extra cost is a forensic accountant. A forensic accountant comes into play based on the strategy and planning with you lawyer, when there is significant money involved and other assets such as cars and vacation homes and multiple homes, retirement accounts or especially when there is ownership of businesses, small and large. A forensic accountant can figure out and find where all the money is, where it comes from and where it goes and is spent on. So that a clear picture of the financial situation of the family can be viewed and evaluated for alimony or child support or just a fair division of the marital assets. Again, this is not common for many people because many people do not have such a large amount of assets in different forms that need to be looked through and put together to see a clearer picture of the financial situation. However, if this service is needed, the average cost can be anywhere from $350 for very small accounting tasks to put together some information and data, all the way up to thousands of dollars to dig through multiple records and even discover on the forensic side, records that don’t exist but should exist, and putting together the whole picture.
Life Coach or Skills Coach
Some cases where there are deep emotions or trauma or abuse in any of its forms, or simply lack of experience and concern for the future, a life coach or skills coach is needed to help identify what the next steps in your life are after divorce as a good example. This coach is meant to help you evaluate what your interest are, what your educational background is, what time constraints you have with taking care of your children as a single parent, and how much money you need to make for your lifestyle you want, and put it all together as a plan for your next career or your entrance into the work space and start working on a plan as needed to have that help to write that new chapter on your own, with your own financial independence.
This cost is recommended for those individuals that have that need, that don’t have a clear plan of what will happen after divorce. Most of the time because that was not that person’s role in the marriage was to be out making money and putting bread on the table and paying the bills. They had other responsibilities like caring for the children, caring for the home and other family tasks, and to keep the family running and healthy.
The cost for these services varies almost as widely as the resources and interest allows from $40 a month all the way to several thousands of dollars for courses and training and programs and should be chosen by consulting with your lawyer and staff to help you make the right choice.
The final extra cost that can be incurred is for more extreme cases that can exist in Georgia is a special litigator. Where you are not getting all the way completed through mediation or even a hearing in front of a judge and you select to go in front of a jury and have the jury hear the evidence and make a decision as to what is a fair division based on all the circumstances and everything that’s presented to them as to how much of all the marital money and assets and everything you receive, or any other serious case that’s going to require multiple witnesses, a day or more of a trial and as mentioned earlier, especially jury trials. At this point in time, your lawyer may want to discuss bringing in a specialist, much like your doctor would at times for certain medical conditions. To have a specialist to handle these types of cases to ensure the right skills and experience is used to have the best outcome for your case. However, many times this is not chosen because of the great increase in cost. One, many people don’t choose to have a long drawn out hearing even in front of a judge and especially a jury, because of the cost incurred by the lawyer which I stated in other articles on the website can be as high as $15,000 to $17,000, and when you add a special litigator attorney to your case to be a specialist for that kind of trial or jury trial, that cost can be an additional $10,000 to $15,000 or more depending on the type of attorney selected as a specialist. This especially is an important aspect to discuss with your attorney and to make the best decision according to your situation and cost analysis as to what you are trying to accomplish by spending the money. It’s another good reminder to trust your lawyer and the law firm you hire so that these decisions are made in your best interest and not for any other reasons. And you trust their decisions and advice that your lawyer and their staff give you.
Again, all of these costs do not happen in every case, and only in those cases where they become applicable as decided between you and your lawyer for specific reasons, for specific benefits, or to work towards a specific outcome that is of course better and more worthwhile than the extra cost they incur to add these additional services and costs to your case.
Please let our office know if you have any further questions about this and we are happy to discuss the types of services and connections we use for any or all of these services for our clients in our family law cases.