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Finding a Pro Bono Divorce Lawyer & Other Free Divorce Resources
Lawyers can be expensive. Although hiring an attorney to help you with your divorce proceedings is ideal, due to your financial circumstances, you might not be able to afford legal counsel. In some situations, a court might require a high-earning spouse to pay the legal fees and expenses of the lower-income spouse, which allows those with lower incomes to have legal assistance. However, if this is not the case, you may want to consider finding a pro bono divorce lawyer.
Pro bono divorce lawyers are, in essence, free divorce lawyers. They are attorneys that will voluntary take on your case at no charge. (Because divorce is a civil legal matter, the court will not appoint a lawyer to represent you, as is done in criminal cases.)
Cost of a Lawyer
Although it's impossible to predict exactly how much an attorney will cost to help you with your divorce proceedings, there is some information about the cost of an attorney that you should know.
First, be sure to always ask your attorneys to go over their fees and billing practices with you. You should always understand how you are going to be charged prior to contracting with a lawyer.
The following is a list of methods an attorney might use to charge you for his or her services. Be sure to do your research on these various fee arrangements before hiring an attorney.
- Hourly Rates: You pay the attorney a set amount for every hour he or she works on your case.
- Flat Fees: You pay the lawyer a single fee for his or her services.
- Retainers: You pay in advance for the attorney's legal services. This fee arrangement is frequently done in conjunction with an hourly rate.
- Contingent Fees: You pay the lawyer nothing upfront, but the lawyer keeps a percentage of any money awarded to you at the end of the case. (Contingency fees are not used in divorce cases.)
Pro Bono Divorce Lawyers
If you determine you can't afford a lawyer after researching divorce attorneys and fee arrangements, you might want to consider finding a free divorce lawyer.
For those with low income, consider looking into federally funded programs for subsidized legal services.
You can also sometimes find pro bono divorce lawyers through your local or state bar association. Such services are typically granted to those on a need-base only, whether due to finances or other circumstances.
Divorce Without a Lawyer
Depending on the state you live in, it might not even be necessary to hire a lawyer to facilitate your divorce. For example, in Texas, if both spouses are in full agreement about all the terms of the divorce, including child custody and child support and the division of property and debt, then a divorce can be granted without a trial.
However, even in this circumstance, one of the spouses must first file an original petition for divorce with the Family Law District Court to have a divorce granted. You may wish to contract an attorney to help you file this document to ensure it is done correctly.
Other Free Divorce Resources
There are a number of other free divorce resources available to you.
- Free Divorce Worksheet: Some websites offer free online divorce worksheets by state. This worksheet will help you collect all the information you will need to hand to your lawyer to help you finalize your divorce.
- Free Personal Legal Forms: You can find free personal legal forms, including child visitation letters, online.
- Bar Associations: State and local bar associations often publish guides to commonly encountered legal situations, such as getting a divorce and writing a will. Check with your local bar association for more information.