What Are My Options if I Cannot Afford a Divorce?

Divorce can be costly, mainly if you and your spouse cannot agree on key issues. Fortunately, there are options available that can make the divorce process more affordable, even if you have limited financial resources.

The following are examples of steps you can take to obtain a divorce if you cannot afford to hire a divorce lawyer:

  • Find a pro bono divorce lawyer. In some cases, divorce lawyers may waive their retainer fee for clients experiencing financial difficulties. Remember, while some private divorce lawyers may agree to waive the retainer fee and offer their legal services at a reduced cost, most private attorneys do not take on clients pro bono.
  • Request a court-appointed attorney. If you and your spouse have custody issues that you need to resolve, an attorney may be appointed to you by the court free of charge. However, it is essential to understand that the court-appointed attorney will only be able to represent you during the custody or restraining order hearing since they are constitutionally-protected rights. You will be financially responsible for the other aspects of your divorce. In addition, to be eligible for a court-appointed attorney, you must prove to the court that you cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
  • Consider mediation. This option is for couples who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to handle their divorce. Mediation often results in resolving marital issues more timely without hiring a lawyer.
  • Request that your spouse pay your attorney fees. If you cannot afford the cost of a divorce lawyer, but your spouse can afford legal representation, you may be able to file a motion for a court order to direct your spouse to pay for your attorney fees. This can be a complicated process, and it is not always guaranteed that the motion will be granted. In addition, you will be responsible for paying the attorney for the filing fees and the cost of representing you in such a motion.
  • Take out a loan. If it is likely that you will receive a lump sum in your divorce settlement, you may be able to borrow money against the amount that you expect to receive to help pay for your legal fees. While this may be an option to pay for legal fees, risks are associated with taking out a loan. If you do not receive the amount of money you expected, you will still be responsible for paying back the borrowed money.
  • Consider limited-scope representation. This may be an option if you have a particular aspect of your case that you need help resolving. For example, if you are a domestic violence survivor and need help filing a restraining order, you can hire a divorce lawyer only to handle that portion of your case.

When Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

The following are examples of scenarios where it is in your best interest to hire a divorce lawyer:

  • You live in a state that allows for fault-based divorces. In New Jersey, couples can file a no-fault or a fault-based divorce. If you are filing a fault-based divorce against your spouse, you must prove the grounds for divorce, which can be more challenging without a lawyer.
  • Your spouse has hired a lawyer. If your spouse has legal representation, it is recommended that you have a divorce lawyer who will protect your legal rights, handle all of the legal paperwork, and negotiate the best possible divorce settlement you may not be able to secure on your own.
  • You are unable to resolve key issues. If you and your spouse cannot agree on important issues like spousal support, child support, or how your marital property should be distributed, you may need to consult an experienced divorce lawyer.

Contact Our Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C.

If you have decided to end your marriage, speak with our Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.