How can I pay for an attorney to process my divorce paperwork if I am in debt and do not qualify for Legal Aid?

For the sanity of my family and I, I really need to file for a divorce. I have grown kids and a teenager as well as a large amount of marital debt. In the past month, I already spoke to someone at Legal Aid but I do not qualify for their services. At this time, I feel trapped in my marriage. Therefore, where can I find a lawyer who can help me?

Asked on May 21, 2012 under Family Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

1) Contract your state, county and (if it exists) municipal bar assocations--bar assocations sometimes provide recommendations to attorneys who will take cases like this pro bono (for free) as public service.

2) Contact local law schools--some of them have clinics where law students help people for free, in the process gaining experience as part of their education.

3)  You *can* file for divorce pro se, or on your own--clearly, having an attorney is much better for you, but you are allowed to act as your own attorney in this regard if you have to.

4) Can you put aside, or borrow from family, a few hundred dollars? Most larger cities (if you are in or near one) will have some attorneys who specialize in low cost divorces, especially if the divorce is not too complex (for example, not alot of assets to divide) and will do it for, say, $399 to $500 dollars.

Also, if you are overwhelmed by debt, consider bankruptcy as an option to discharge your debts and start over--it will impact your credit significantly, for a number of years, but may still be the better option.

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