Beyond Pro-Bono: Financing Divorce As A Low-Income Earner

Posted on: 20 July 2016


You are probably aware that pro-bono divorce lawyers can provide you with legal services at no cost. However, demand for pro bono outstrips supply. Therefore, if you are a low-income earner who doesn't have the money to pay a divorce attorney, it pays to know other options apart from pro bono attorneys. Here are three alternatives to consider:

Look For a Lawyer Who Doesn't Charge Upfront Fees

Take this route if your family has some money you can use on the divorce, but you don't have access to the funds right away. This can be the case, for example if your partner is the main breadwinner in your family and they have a tight control over the family's finances.

If you find yourself in such a scenario, talk to your lawyer to petition the court for an advance on your marital estate to pay interim attorney fees. The advance comes from your potential share of the marital settlement. That way you get quality legal representation without making a direct upfront payment. Ask your lawyer if your state has such a provision; Illinois is an example of a state that has it.

Research Low-Cost Divorce Attorneys

If your meager resources cannot handle attorney fees, or if you would rather save the little you have for other uses, then the option above might not help. Fortunately, there are divorce lawyers who advertise low-cost services; research your local bar association for a list of such lawyers. Although most of these lawyers are just as experienced as other lawyers, it doesn't hurt to carry out due diligence and land the best one for your situation.

Consider Charitable Organizations

The third option is to look for charitable organizations that provide free or cheap legal assistance to low-income earners going through a divorce. Many of these organizations cater to or prioritize specific demographics. For example, they may target people living with disabilities, senior citizens or immigrants. Evaluate your criteria and apply to an organization most likely to accept your application.

Note that these organizations are usually swamped with applications. Therefore, you might be put on a waiting list, which means this option might not be for you if you need to get out of your marriage first.

Hopefully, the above options will help you get legal representation or advice for your divorce. It is easier to find a low-cost attorney than one who will offer you completely free services. Talk to your divorce law attorney about other ways of lowering your divorce cost.