Are you planning to make a legal break from your spouse?
A divorce can be very expensive, and not everyone has the available funds to pay for the associated fees. However, you shouldn’t have to stay in a bad marriage just because you are struggling financially.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to get the legal assistance that you need. If your household income is below a particular threshold, you can apply to receive legal aid without paying for it.
So, let’s find out about getting a free divorce lawyer for low-income individuals, and how to apply.
- Types of Divorce and the Associated Costs
- Ways to Secure a Lawyer with No Money
- Who Qualifies for a Free Divorce Lawyer for Low-Income?
- Providing Proof of Income
- Where to Find Free Legal Representation?
- Other Assistance for Low-Income
- Final Thoughts
Types of Divorce and the Associated Costs
There are several legally-recognized ways of splitting up with your spouse. But before you get started, it is important to have a good understanding of the process. Here are the main types of divorce and how much you can expect to pay.
Do it yourself
This option could be suitable if you made an amicable split from your spouse and you are still on good terms. It is ideal if you were only married for a short time, don’t have children, and don’t have assets to divide. Your spouse may need to complete the necessary paperwork and file for expenses. If everything goes smoothly, the cost of doing everything yourself could be $300 or less.
This way of resolving divorce will not result in high costs for your spouse. In this type of case, a mediator is appointed to help resolve any issues, eliminating the need for an attorney. The main cost is the mediator’s fee, which typically starts at around $3,000, depending on your location.
In this type of case, you need to agree with your spouse on the major issues in advance. Taking the time to do this eliminates the need for lengthy court hearings and disputes. Each party has to hire a lawyer and pay the set rate for their services. The hourly rate for this service is $200 to $300, while there may be other associated costs.
This may be the only option if you are unable to come to an agreement with your spouse. It is the most complex and costly option and should be avoided if at all possible. But if your spouse contests the divorce, you will both have to hire separate lawyers and pay for their services.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the costs can range from $200 to $300 per hour. And in this type of case, it can take numerous hours to resolve issues such as dividing property and finding fault. This can result in high court costs, causing the final bill to run to $15,000 or more.
Ways to Secure a Lawyer with No Money
Hiring an experienced lawyer will make dissolving your marriage a much smoother process. The lawyer will be able to go through the entire process with you and make sure everything is done correctly. Here are some ways to secure legal assistance if you don’t have the funds to pay for it.
Divorce fee waiver
This waiver is available to people who are unable to meet the costs of a lawyer. The waiver is available in every state and is intended for people on low incomes. It is necessary to provide proof of earnings and expenses to secure the waiver. Plus, it is important to note that the waiver is only designed to cover the filing fees.
Obtain free divorce forms
Certain forms need to be completed to secure a lawyer without paying for the service. You can obtain these forms from your nearest local court or family court. The court clerk, specifically, should be able to provide these forms and answer any questions you may have.
Provide financial proof
It is necessary to prove to the court that you are unable to financially afford the cost of an attorney. In order to do this, you will be asked to provide details of your financial status. This includes information about your current income, assets, debts, and real estate assets. If the court deems that the evidence you provide is sufficient, a voluntary attorney will be appointed to your case.
File for a fee waiver
A court clerk will help you to file for a waiver as the final step of the process. The clerk will verify that the documents you have provided are authentic and all the details are correct. However, if there is any discrepancy in the information you have provided, your application is likely to be rejected.
So it’s worth checking everything very carefully before submitting…
If all the information you have provided is authentic and qualifies, the court will approve your application. But, in order for this to happen, it must be determined that you are genuinely in financial distress. Once this is proven, a specialist attorney will be appointed to you.
Who Qualifies for a Free Divorce Lawyer for Low-Income?
You have to meet the specific low-income qualifications in your state, plus the prerequisites for getting divorced. Each state has its own criteria for deciding whether or not to grant a fee waiver. And although the process tends to be fairly similar, it is important to check on the exact requirements and qualifying factors first.
Even if you qualify, your spouse might not qualify if they have separate assets. This means that they would have to pay their own legal fees. Fortunately, there are often ways around this so that both you and your spouse can be covered.
Applicants need to meet at least one of the following conditions:
- Be receiving public benefits
- Have a total household income below a specified amount per the number of family members
- Be unable to meet the family’s basic needs and pay court fees
Once the court has approved a waiver request, other associated fees can be included. This helps to make sure that people who have very low incomes only end up paying a minimal amount. In certain circumstances, it is also possible to end up paying nothing at all.
Associated legal fees that can be waived for low-income individuals include:
- The fees for filing the divorce
- Service of process fees
- The cost of copying documents
- Court reporting fees
Deferment of costs
In some cases, the court may decide to defer the fees rather than waive them entirely. This is usually done when it is believed the applicant will have the necessary funds once the divorce is final. Moreover, courts also have the right to withdraw a waiver and collect the fees if the financial circumstances of the applicant change.
Providing Proof of Income
As mentioned, before a court can approve your request, your records of personal income have to be reviewed. This includes full details of all your sources of income as well as your expenses. You will need to submit a sworn statement that includes details of all finances you receive.
The following information must be included:
- Statement demonstrating an inability to pay the court fees
- Detailed explanation of the amount and sources of income
- List of any property owned and the value
If you live in the state of Texas, you will need to complete a Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs. This form has to be completed in as much detail as possible, and all supplied information must be accurate. Once again, if there is missing information or inconsistencies, the application is likely to be rejected.
Texas-based applicants must disclose the following information:
- All sources of monthly income
- List of financially dependent persons
- The values of all owned property
- Monthly expenses, including utilities
- Full details of any debts
Where to Find Free Legal Representation?
Securing the services of an experienced attorney without paying their fees is easier said than done. And even when you have gotten the court fees waived, you will still be expected to pay for legal representation. However, assistance is available to people who meet the established low-income qualifications.
Ok, but where to look?
Federally funded Legal Aid offices can be found throughout all parts of the United States. These offices are intended to provide people who can’t afford to hire a lawyer with free assistance. Legal Services Corporation provides contact information on all the Legal Aid offices in the United States.
Additionally, bar associations encourage attorneys to volunteer their time and provide free legal services to people with low incomes. You can find information about attorneys who offer this service from your county or state bar association.
Other Assistance for Low-Income
If you or anybody you love is finding it challenging to make ends meet or to find a job, we have many useful resources available. We have comprehensive guides to the Benefits of Having a Job, and if you already have one, How to Get a Pay Stub and How To Get Your W-2 From a Previous Employer if you qualify for a tax refund.
If you are already on your state’s benefits…
Then, you might be wondering, Can You Use EBT on DoorDash, Does Safeway Take EBT, Does Target Take WIC, or How To Use Affirm at Walmart? Just use our search box for any low-income query you may have in 2023.
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Furthermore, a lack of education should never hold you back. Look at these High-Paying Medical Jobs You Can Do With Little Schooling or our list of Top High Paying Jobs Without a Degree.
Scared you can’t handle the pressure?
Ok, back to today’s low-income US citizen benefits discussion…
The decision to split up with a spouse is never easy, and it needs to be carefully considered. The biggest barrier to making the split legal if you are on a low income is probably the court costs. The cost of legal representation is also an important consideration.
Fortunately, there are a few different ways of getting these fees waived if you need financial assistance. However, it is important to make sure that you meet the requirements before applying. You’ll also need to gather all the required documentation to make the application process run as smoothly as possible. But by following my guide, you will, hopefully, get through the process quickly and painlessly.