If you’re a responsible parent, you’re legally entitled to half of your children’s time regardless of how much money you have. But if you can’t afford a lawyer, it’s like you’re being punished for your income. Lawyers can get quite expensive, but you don’t want to take any chances and you need all the help you can get. Although it may feel like you’re straight out of luck if you can’t afford a custody lawyer, there are a few legal aid options available.
Legal Aid Options in Family Law
Each state is different, but most lawyers will give you a free 30-minute consultation. Be honest and brief with your lawyer. Ask them what they think your best course of action should be. There are several suggestions they may make such as:
- Going to your local courthouse to find more options
- Resources to free legal aid societies in your area
- Recommending your case to a local law school
- Contacting your local bar association
- Domestic abuse shelters
There are lots of options available to you if you can’t afford a custody lawyer. So even if you can’t go to a consultation, there are some options available.
Your Local Courthouse
At your nearest courthouse, see if you can find whoever is in charge of administration. Some courts may offer free assistance to people with extenuating circumstances. Even if you can’t find a free consultation, your local court will still have all the information you need for your custody battle.
Free Legal Aid Societies
There are lots of legal aid services out there. Another reason for you to go to your local courthouse is to see if they can recommend different legal aid societies. Some may have specific organizations that help people in your predicament. For instance, lots of lawyers will volunteer their time to help people from a community they came from.
Even top law schools like Harvard offer legal aid programs at free or discounted prices. You’ll be assigned to work with a group of students and a supervising professor. In turn, your case is used as a learning experience for the students, while still providing top care.
Your Local Bar Association
If you still can’t find free legal help, try going to your local bar association. Even if they cannot offer you free or discounted legal help, they can help in some other ways.
Your bar association will let you know if there’s a lawyer in your area who specializes in cases like yours and if they can give you a free consultation. If your situation is dire, someone at the bar association may sympathize and offer more legal aid such as pro bono services or limited scope retainers.
Pro Bono Services (Free Legal Aid)
Pro bono services are when a lawyer offers free representation to their clients. Any time a lawyer does offer pro bono services, it means that they’re forgoing their own fee, along with the fee of their entire team to help you.
Larger law firms often have programs offering pro bono services. More small-time lawyers often help specific communities or marginalized groups as a way to give back to the community.
Discounted Legal Services
If a lawyer cannot offer you free services, ask them to offer discounted services. This could include a:
- Reduced hourly fee
- Limited scope retainer
- Unbundled services
- Legal advice
Lawyers who offer “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainer” will help you with only a specific part of your case. You would still represent yourself, but you would have access to some things like:
- Legal advice
- Document preparation
- Appearance in a court setting
- Coaching or mentorship with your case
This is helpful for those who make too much money to qualify for legal aid but require assistance in their custody battle case.
Legal Options For Domestic Violence Victims
If you’re a domestic violence victim, you need more than help with just your custody case. During this process, you should also file for a restraining order against your abuser. Domestic violence victims not only need to protect themselves but their children as well.
You can speak to a free counselor about the abuse with the National Domestic Hotline at 1(800) 799-7233.