Many people need a divorce lawyer but cannot afford to pay expensive legal fees. Fortunately, you may be able to find representation through a local legal aid society or volunteer lawyers organization. Many of these organizations provide low-cost or even free legal services to qualifying individuals. These organizations also offer additional resources that may help you with your divorce.
Will I Be Appointed a Lawyer?
It is required by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that if you are facing criminal charges, the court must appoint you a lawyer if you cannot afford one. However, this does not usually apply in the divorce context. In custody cases involving minor children, some states will appoint a lawyer on behalf of your children. A judge will usually appoint a lawyer for a child if neither parent is representing the child’s best interests. Unfortunately, there are usually no state-funded, court-appointed attorneys for divorce cases. However, this does not mean that you cannot find free or affordable legal representation elsewhere.
Courts in some states will appoint a lawyer to represent a parent in certain child custody cases. For example, if your parental rights are at stake, you may be appointed a lawyer under state law.
Where Should I Look for Help?
Everyone knows that getting divorced can be expensive. There are court fees you must pay, and you may need to pay a professional custody evaluator or a mediator. The biggest expense by far is hiring a divorce lawyer. Luckily, various options exist if you are worried about your ability to pay for a divorce attorney. The availability of low cost legal services varies by state. All fifty states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico offer some form of legal assistance to people who are not able to afford to pay a lawyer.
Call the legal aid society in your local area to ask about the kinds of services they offer. Different organizations have different requirements. You may have to earn below a certain income threshold to qualify for services. Additionally, the need for free legal services is often much greater than what the local legal aid society can handle. There may be a waiting list for receiving pro bono legal services from your local legal aid organization.
Local Bar Association
Each state has a bar association that oversees the certification and qualifications of attorneys practicing in that state. Your state’s bar association may be able to suggest options for free or low-cost representation in your divorce.
Some bar associations can offer you a discounted consultation with an attorney. If your divorce case is relatively simple, this consultation may be all the legal advice you need. Not every divorce requires a lawyer to handle every step of the case. If you and your spouse agree on most of the divorce issues, a consultation may be all you need. However, a divorce with one or more contested issues and any divorce with contested child custody can get complicated. A consultation can still help. The consulting lawyer can help you weigh the pros and cons of representing yourself versus continuing to look for free representation. Once you know what the stakes are, you will be able to make an informed decision.
Even if you do not qualify for free legal representation through a legal aid society, the organization may still be able to help you. Some legal aid organizations offer self-help tools for people facing legal issues.
Self-help tools can include programs designed to help you fill out the forms that the court requires for your divorce. Legal forms in their standard format can be extremely confusing, especially if you don’t have prior experience dealing with the court system. Self-help programs offer a question and answer format to guide you through the process. You will answer the questions the program asks to the best of your ability, and the program will use your answers to fill out the forms.
Before you sit down to fill out your paperwork, take some time to get organized. You will need to know some basic information and some more detailed information about you and your spouse’s assets to complete the paperwork. Set aside some time to review your financial records such as bank statements and mortgage documents. This can help you take stock of the property that you and your spouse own, as well as which property you own jointly versus separately. Once you have gathered all the documentation you think you will need, you are ready to begin the process of filling out your forms.
Low-Cost Legal Services
Getting legal advice does not always have to involve an expensive law firm. Vantage Group Legal offers a subscription service that you can tailor to your needs. After an initial free consultation, you can opt to subscribe to Vantage Group Legal’s services. An attorney who is experienced in divorce law or other relevant matters will be assigned to your case. Vantage Group Legal offers a low-cost alternative to traditional law firms.
What Are Some Other Options?
If your spouse is easily able to afford an attorney and you are not, you may be able to petition the court to require your spouse to pay your legal fees. In many states, you can file a petition for interim attorney fees or order for counsel fees against your spouse. It is not a sure thing that the court will grant your motion. Your spouse can oppose the motion and respond with reasons why they should not have to pay your legal fees. Ultimately a judge will rule on the most equitable outcome. Some attorneys will want you to pay them for the time they spend filing and defending the motion for attorney fees. If they win the motion, they will then continue to represent you and will be paid directly by your spouse.
Another somewhat unpopular option for paying an attorney is taking out a loan. Loans are risky and can leave you in a more difficult financial position than you were in before your divorce. However, you may be certain that you will have the money to pay back the loan after your divorce. Maybe you and your spouse plan to liquidate certain assets and divide the money. If you are confident that your divorce settlement will leave you with sufficient funds to pay back the loan, it might not be a bad idea to borrow money to pay an attorney.
Talk to Your Spouse
Not every divorce involves hostility between spouses. If you and your spouse are on fairly friendly terms, it is worth the time and effort to discuss your divorce agreement. While you may not want to interact with your spouse during this time, the truth is that reaching an agreement can save you both a lot of money. If you can work out an arrangement for dividing property and splitting child custody or visitation, there may be no need to hire an attorney.
If you can reach a total agreement, you may be able to file for an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorce varies from state to state, but the basic idea is that you and your spouse will eventually submit a divorce agreement outlining the terms of your separation to the court. A judge will review the agreement and sign off on it, finalizing the divorce. You may have already identified areas of disagreement with your spouse. But if possible, you should ask yourself whether a compromise may be more beneficial in the long run. There is no sense in arguing for a larger share of the marital property if most of its value will be spent on legal fees when all is said and done.
Vantage Group Legal is ready to offer you experienced, low-cost representation. Call our office today for a free consultation. This consultation will help match you with the right attorney for your case. We offer unparalleled dedication to serving your needs as a client from the beginning to the end of your case.