For most couples, divorce is costly. Even if you agree on everything, you may still have two sets of attorney bills, court costs, discovery costs, and other unexpected resources. However, you may be able to receive free legal assistance to help you manage these expenses, such as free divorce lawyer advice, a free divorce lawyer, or free assistance to help you file on your own. 

Is Free Legal Help Available?

Free legal help may be available, depending on where you live and your particular situation. Some examples of free and low-cost legal assistance may include:

Free Divorce Lawyer 

Some people have discovered how to get a divorce with no money. This is often possible through their local Legal Aid (or similarly named) office. This type of organization is specifically set up to assist people with limited resources to access justice, including sometimes providing a free divorce lawyer for low income clients. In fact, one of the most common web searches for Legal Aid organizations is, “Does Legal Aid help with divorce?” The answer is, “yes,” but will they help with yours? That depends.

Each Legal Aid organization must establish its own set of priorities because the need for free or inexpensive legal services is so high. Therefore, your local Legal Aid organization may only be able to take your case if:

  • You are being abused
  • You have children
  • You own property

If none of these apply, your Legal Aid office may not be able to accept your case for a free Legal Aid divorce. However, you may still want to contact the organization. Why? Because it can often submit your case to several pro bono divorce lawyers who have an arrangement with the organization to take on some of the lower priority cases. A pro bono divorce attorney is one who agrees to work on your case without any promise on your part to pay. However, he or she may still be able to get your spouse to pay for their services.

5-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. Take the first steps in your recovery and start healing today! Send me the free emails
5-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. Take the first steps in your recovery and start healing today! Send me the free emails

Divorce Advice

Legal Aid organizations may be able to provide you with free divorce lawyer advice, even if they can’t accept your case for full representation. These organizations often provide comprehensive advice letters that instruct you step-by-step on how to proceed with your case.

In addition to this free service, some Legal Aid organizations provide a free telephone helpline, information center at the courthouse, or other public-facing arrangement so that they can provide legal information to people in need. This type of arrangement usually does not commit the Legal Aid attorney to represent the person in court or an attorney/client privilege. However, if the case is fairly straightforward, this is all the help you might need.

Some lawyers volunteer with various organizations and agree to provide free legal advice to people over the phone or email. 

Paperwork Assistance

Others may try to seek a low income divorce by just getting assistance with the paperwork. Other people may be able to help you with just the paperwork aspect of a case, but no one other than an attorney licensed in your state should give you legal advice. You may be able to ask the court clerk, a paralegal, or legal professional about the paperwork involved in filing for divorce or responding to a complaint for divorce.

Legal Aid websites, state bar association websites, and other websites often contain sample complaints and answers that you can look at to get an idea about the information that should be included in your paperwork. There are also legal information websites and software programs that can produce these documents for you.

Mediation

One way that people sometimes discover how to get a divorce without money is through an uncontested divorce. If both the spouses agree to all the terms of their divorce, they may be able to proceed without expensive divorce attorneys and minimal costs.

If they don’t initially agree on the terms of the divorce (like property division or child custody), they may be able to reach an agreement with the help of a mediator. A mediator is a third party neutral who facilitates communication between two people involved in a legal issue. He or she guides the parties during one or more mediation sessions in which the parties identify issues they don’t agree on and work diligently to reach an agreement. 

Many areas offer free mediation for people going through divorce. If you have children, you may be required to complete mediation anyway before the court will grant a divorce. 

Where To Find Free Legal Help

There may be a number of organizations that may be able to help. You just need to know where to look. Here are a few places where you can start your search.

Federal Programs

Legal Aid is a federally-funded program that provides people with low income access to the legal system. Some states have several different Legal Aid programs or offices. Check in your county first, and then look to nearby counties to see if there is one near you.

State Bar Associations

You can contact your state bar association and inquire about low-cost or free legal assistance. These organizations often provide a list of attorneys in relevant practice areas to people who ask. 

Charitable Organizations

Private charities may offer free legal help to specific groups like the elderly or veterans. Others may help individuals in specific situations, such as a battered women’s shelter. Catholic Charities provides legal assistance to clients less than 200% of the federal poverty guideline. Great Nonprofits provides a list of free legal service providers. You can also look through the American Bar Association’s list of charitable organizations that provide free or low-cost legal assistance.

Law School Clinics

Many law schools offer clinics to help law school students gain practical experience. They are supervised by a licensed attorney and taught how to help with specific legal issues, like divorce. Check if your local university has a similar program.

Am I Eligible For Free Legal Help?

Your eligibility will depend on your specific circumstances, the type of help you are requesting, and the organizations’ internal policies. Often, to be eligible for this type of help, you may need to have limited income, such as being less than 1.5 times the federal poverty level. They must also usually have limited assets, but some assets like their home may be exempted from this calculation. Some organizations may allow you greater flexibility regarding resources, but you may have to be part of a certain group, such as part of a certain religion, LGBT, or elderly. 

How to Waive Divorce Filing Fees

Typically, when you file for a divorce, you must pay a filing fee. In many states, this is several hundred dollars. However, if you can prove paying the fee would be a financial hardship, you may be able to get the fee waived. You must usually complete an In Forma Pauperis application and affidavit in which you explain why you can’t pay the fee. If your request is granted, you can still file for divorce, but you won’t have to pay the filing fees. This may also help you avoid paying other fees, too, such as the cost of having your spouse served with the legal paperwork. 

Court Facilitators

If you don’t have an attorney, court facilitators may be able to offer free help processing paperwork and moving through the divorce process. Some of the ways they may be able to help include:

  • Identifying which legal forms you need to complete
  • Reviewing your forms for completeness
  • Explaining court procedures
  • Scheduling court hearings
  • Making referrals to other agencies

Divorce Without A Lawyer

There is no rule that says you have to hire a lawyer to represent you in order to get a divorced. People get divorced every day without a lawyer. As long as you follow the steps correctly, you can get a divorce without a lawyer. Some states even offer special programs for just this situation.

However, keep in mind that once the divorce is final, you may not be able to go back and make changes. Divorce may have many implications for your property, child custody, and support matters. In some situations, not hiring a lawyer is much more expensive in the long run than it would have been simply to hire a lawyer. This is because you may lose out on property or give away more than you had to.

Consider hiring a lawyer if your case is at all complex or involves:

  • Children
  • Property
  • Debt
  • Retirement funds
  • The military

Other Free Divorce Resources

There may be a ton of other helpful free divorce resources out there for you, including:

With the resources discussed above, you can get a divorce without breaking the bank.

5-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. Take the first steps in your recovery and start healing today! Send me the free emails
5-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. Take the first steps in your recovery and start healing today! Send me the free emails