Low Income Divorce Help

By Beverly Bird

Legal troubles don’t just strike those who can afford to invest funds into winning. Divorce can happen to anyone, and attorneys' fees can add up to something you have no hope of paying if your income is low. Fortunately, state courts are aware of this and most have implemented procedures and programs to help those who can’t afford legal representation.

Legal troubles don’t just strike those who can afford to invest funds into winning. Divorce can happen to anyone, and attorneys' fees can add up to something you have no hope of paying if your income is low. Fortunately, state courts are aware of this and most have implemented procedures and programs to help those who can’t afford legal representation.

Legal Aid

Most states offer legal aid programs for low-income individuals. Services range from full representation to a free consultation with an attorney, depending on how much you earn and your particular problem. For example, if your divorce involves domestic violence, the income requirements for free legal aid are usually more generous to handle this particular aspect of your case. For other help, states base their income guidelines on a percentage of the federal poverty level. Texas offers legal aid to individuals who earn 125 percent of this level. If you have two children, you can earn up to $440 a week and qualify.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Do-It-Yourself Kits

Earning more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level does not necessarily mean you can afford a lawyer. If you can’t get state help because you earn too much, you can download the documents you need to file for divorce from many state court websites. Other websites sell them at moderate cost. Some states also offer free self-help legal clinics to guide you in preparing the documents. If you have a particular question, most attorneys will consult with you on an hourly basis, so you can get the answer you need without coming up with an entire retainer fee.

Fee Waivers

After you prepare your divorce paperwork, your next hurdle is filing it. State court filing fees can be expensive, up to several hundred dollars. If your budget can’t accommodate this, you can apply for a fee waiver. Most states require that you do this at the time you file. When you take your documents to the court clerk, ask about your state’s procedure. You can usually fill out a form request right on the spot. The clerk will accept your paperwork and hold it pending a judge’s decision to waive your filing fee, either in whole or in part.

Other Options

Some states, such as New York, have special legislation if your spouse earns a good income but you don’t. A judge can order your spouse to pay some or all of your legal fees. Call legal aid in your area to find out if your jurisdiction offers this kind of help. Other states, such as Illinois, have special simplified divorce procedures if both you and your spouse are low-income earners. If you have limited property and no children, the cost of your divorce can be significantly less. Some states restrict free legal aid to only custody and child support issues, so if you do have children, you might be able to resolve this aspect of your divorce first at little or no cost, before filing for divorce. After you have a custody and support order in place, if you don’t own any significant property, you may be able to use your state's option for simplified divorce. The judge would include your custody and support order as part of your decree.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Legal Aid & Divorce

References

Related articles

What Percentage Is Child Support Based On in Arkansas?

Of the many uncertainties involved with divorce, child support can be front and center. It will have a significant effect on your post-separation budget, so you'll probably want to know as soon as possible how much your obligation will be. In some states, it can be difficult to calculate what percentage of your income will go toward support, at least without professional help. If you live in Arkansas, however, you can take heart because child support is relatively simple to calculate.

Who Pays for a Divorce in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, as elsewhere, divorce can be extremely expensive. If your divorce is uncontested and you can agree on how to resolve the important issues, the costs are significantly less and you and your spouse can fund the proceedings with marital income. If your matter is contested, however, each of you is typically responsible for paying your own attorneys' fees and costs. This can leave one spouse at a disadvantage if the other out-earns her to a great extent, but Tennessee law balances this in some ways.

Divorce Options With no Money and in an Abusive Relationship

Do-it-yourself divorce kits abound on the Internet, but if you’re divorcing an abusive spouse, representing yourself might not be your best option. If your spouse hires an attorney, you’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t have a good working knowledge of court procedures and the laws in your state. If you have children, you might risk losing custody if your spouse plays dirty. If you need spousal support for a while, until you can get on your feet, an attorney can usually get that for you. Most states offer low-cost or even free options for representation.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Help Filling Out Divorce Papers

Filling out divorce papers can be complex, even if you understand basic legal principles. The formatting, content and ...

The Average Cost of Divorce in Missouri

Divorces don't just happen to people who can afford them. Attorneys' fees and court costs in Missouri are on par with ...

How to Get a Divorce Lawyer When a Person Has No Money

Unlike criminal cases, where you may be entitled to a court-appointed attorney if you have no money, in divorce cases, ...

How to Get Approved for the Affidavit of Poverty & Divorce

American courts won’t force you to remain married if you don’t want to, even if you can’t afford your ...

Browse by category