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Todd Spodek - Nationally Recognized Divorce Attorney

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What if I can’t afford to pay my lawyer up front?

Divorce is often tough on countless levels and even in the circumstances. This is because it marks the end of a relationship that was at one point loving, emotional and physical upheavals due to the profound change, division of assets, and expensive financial costs. Lawyers can cost hundreds of dollars hourly, and they require expensive retainers up front. Sometimes, these lawyers can add forensic accountants, financial advisors, valuation, and vocational experts whose professionalism may be required and this makes the divorce process more expensive.


When you decide to meet up with a divorce lawyer, you should be honest and open about your financial state. Divorce lawyers are also humans, and they know that not all clients have enough money to pay for their divorce cases. In most situations, one spouse may be the only breadwinner while the other has little or no money.


How Much Can I pay My Divorce Lawyer


There are no two similar divorce cases, and the cost of your divorce will depend on some factors, including:


  • Is your divorce case uncontested?
  • Do you reside in a neighborhood that has a high cost of living where the legal fees can be more expensive compared to other areas?
  • Have you and your spouse failed to reach an agreement about the divorce and still have some unresolved issues?
  • Are you able to reach an agreement about child custody, the division of assets, and alimony?
  • What is the cost of filing a divorce in your area? Which are some of the mandatory fees for parenting classes and mediation?

Due to all these factors, ensure that you ask your divorce attorney the estimated cost of filing for your divorce. The cost should cover legal fees, filing expenses, and any other charges. In case you are certain that you won’t be able to pay, discuss with your attorney on some of the options. Some of the common options include:


Request your spouse to pay for all your legal fees: In case your spouse has more money, you can request him or her to pay for all your legal fees and expenses. However, if your spouse is unwilling to assist you voluntarily, you can ask the judge who is handling your case to order your spouse to pay some or all your legal fees.


A flat fee billing: You can opt to pay your lawyer a flat fee in case the divorce case is simple and straightforward. However, you should keep in mind that your lawyer will only agree to a flat fee in case the divorce process is uncontested. This means that if other problems arise, you will have to meet the additional fees.


Set a budget: in case you and your partner are on tight budgets, you won’t be able to shift the legal fees to your spouse. However, you can talk to your attorney and set a budget for your legal costs and make sure your stick to it. This means that you should restrain yourself and only talk to your lawyer when necessary. Likewise, your attorney will also try and work within your budget.


Task-based billing: if your divorce case is not complicated, your divorce lawyer may advise you to represent yourself in some areas during the divorce process. For instance, you can negotiate a fair settlement one-on-one with your spouse without the presence of your attorney. Later you can pay your attorney to review your agreement and indicate any potential mistakes. Hiring an attorney to handle pieces of your divorce can greatly reduce your legal costs.


Use a “do it yourself” guide: In criminal cases, a client who can’t afford an attorney is provided with one by the court. However, because divorce is a civil matter, the court cannot appoint a free attorney to handle your divorce case. Many courts have self-service divorce centers that have resources to guide people who are divorcing without an attorney. In some situations, local attorneys can volunteer to provide you with answers to any questions you may have and assist you during the filling of forms. However, in most cases you will be limited to instruction manuals and booklets.


Divorce cases are filled with anxiety and not knowing how to pay your attorney will add to your fears. However, ensure that you are honest with yourself and your attorney about your finances. When you know what you can afford, then your lawyer will be in a better position to realistically inform you what to expect during your case.

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