Free Divorce Lawyer
By Jeff J. Horn, Esq.
Is it possible?
Free divorce lawyer versus $10,000
Your divorce looks easy. You and your spouse agree. Until you don’t. No one has money in the budget for a divorce lawyer. $10,000 sounds like a lot of money. it is a lot of money unless the stakes are higher than the cost. Is there a limit to what you would spend to protect your children? It can be scary to think about the consequences of your divorce. Will I be okay?
Many potential clients simply lack the budget to pay for their divorce. Those potential clients may be forced to compromise on their settlement. There are options to work with a free divorce lawyer. you may be able to secure a free divorce lawyer outright. Conversely, you may be able to get free divorce lawyer resources and you combine those with your own resourcefulness to achieve big results.
What if you could get a free divorce lawyer?
Sorry. Unlike criminal cases there is no right to counsel in a divorce. Divorce is a civil matter. There is no Constitutionally required public defender or free divorce lawyer. The budget may be tight, but a free divorce lawyer may cost you your best deal. The decision to go paid, unpaid or a hybrid solution will depend upon what is at stake for you and your family.
What’s it worth?
The best things in life are free. The best representation never comes from a free divorce lawyer. A private attorney offering free services has a strong incentive to put paid clients first. A lawyer handling many pro bono cases for a non-profit is certainly stretched thin. Paying a lawyer or seeking a free divorce lawyer requires a cost-benefit analysis. What can I receive in equitable distribution? How much alimony will I receive? If I receive big money, paying for a lawyer may not be as hard as it seems.
Before you go it alone, think through all options expressed here, including the “Fairy Godmother of Divorce Funding” – Nicole Noonan.
What are the ways to get a free divorce lawyer?
- Legal services – non-profits such as the Legal Services Corporation provide lawyers for the poor. Lawyer time is a scarce commodity even in the best run legal nonprofits. your nonprofit lawyer will have limited bandwidth for your case
- Lawyer referral – there may be completely competent and free lawyers in your community. search the internet and call around you may strike gold with a free lawyer. At a minimum you will learn and pick up helpful nuggets by doing legwork.
- Pro Bono – the local bar association may have a pro bono free divorce lawyer program. Check out your city or county Bar Association.
- Lawyer coaching – you lack funds to pay a lawyer for full service representation. You may be able to handle the bulk of your case while receiving coaching from a lawyer with specialized knowledge in divorce. you are your own free divorce lawyer with a paid coach.
- Hire a lawyer when needed – represent yourself for most of the case. Time for trial, hire a lawyer to try the case. Or, hire a lawyer to attend mediation with you.
- Barter – lawyers have buildings, houses and cars. You have a talent. Trade fixing, maintaining or cleaning for lawyering.
- Leverage another lawsuit – while you wait for a recovery on a personal injury claim you may need help with your divorce. Your money is locked up in the personal injury case. Surprisingly, you can hire your lawyer with no money secured by a letter of protection from your personal injury lawyer.
- Borrow money – borrowing is not free. I get it. However, hardly anyone has cash sitting around marked for their divorce. Even rich people temporarily borrow money to fund divorce litigation. Borrowing does not mean your lawyer is free. Your lawyer gets paid and your “lender” gets paid back when the case settles. Sources of borrowing include:
- Money from your family.
- A home equity line of credit
- Pay fees on credit cards
- Take an advance on a retirement account
- Distribute funds from a retirement account – you may be able to take money out of a retirement account as a hardship. Check with the plan administrator. Advances from your spouse’s retirement account can be court ordered.
Pro se- when you represent yourself you are your own free divorce lawyer. Become an educated consumer first. Take an online course, there are a bunch on Udemy, Top Divorce Courses Online – Updated [September 2020].
Remember the famous Abraham Lincoln quote
“He who serves as his own counsel has a fool for
a lawyer and a jack*ss for a client” https://quoteinvestigator.com/2019/07/30/lawyer/#:~:text=ABRAHAM%20LINCOLN%20SAID%3A%20A%20man,a%20fool%20for%20a%20client.
Work hard so you are neither the fool nor the jack*ss.
How do you avoid being the jack*ss.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
One of my mentors is retired Judge David Millard. “Hold the lantern,” says Judge Millard. This means know where you are going to go with your case. Count on points of darkness. When the Judge is lost, assume that no one else will understand your point. You must lead the judge and the other side of your case. leave them all to your goals and your reasonable position. Use the lantern to achieve big results.
Organization is key when you work as your own free divorce lawyer.
Put everything in the binder. Remember, your phone is not evidence. Get those pictures and text messages off the phone and print them out. Print out all social media pictures and posts that support your case.
A full set of financial documents means tax returns, pay stubs, proof of assets and debts. Proof, proof, proof.
The New Jersey court system is full of resources. Start with the artificial intelligence driven chatbot – JIA – https://njcourts.gov/notices/2019/n190909a.pdf.
The NJ Courts Offer vast online resources. Here is a little sample and links to key educational tools for the self-represented.
Do I need a lawyer to file a divorce case?
The decision to file for divorce is a difficult one, and having to work through the legal process on your own makes it even more difficult. For this reason, the court recommends that people considering filing for divorce, or those who are responding to a divorce complaint, seek legal counsel if they are able to do so.
Legal Services of New Jersey maintains a directory of regional legal services offices.
The New Jersey Bar Association also maintains a list of county lawyer referral services that might be helpful.
Free is a powerful word. Make sure your get more than you pay for with your free divorce lawyer.
Picture by Ian Dooley via Unsplash – Email: [email protected]