What to Do If I Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

By July 19, 2018Blog
Legal Aid Alternatives

Even under the best circumstances, divorces and child custody cases are expensive. There will be a filing fee with your state as well as the financial trauma of separating one household into two. If you were a stay-at-home parent, you might not have career skills that will help you get a job that pays enough to allow you to support your family. If you both worked full-time, you will be making do with a fraction of what was your total household income. And if you were the breadwinner, chances are good that you will be paying child support and/or alimony. On top of that, a divorce lawyer can cost thousands of dollars, particularly if the case ends up going to court. What can you do to ease this major financial burden?

 

Get on a Budget

No matter how your financial situation is about to change, it’s important to know what is coming in and what is going out of your home in terms of income and expenses. It’s very likely that your income is going to be dropping or that your expenses are going to be rising. In many cases, both of these will occur. The only way to manage your finances during this time is to be on a strict written budget, at least until you have a good handle on how your financial situation has changed and what you need to do to cope.

Begin by writing down every dollar that will come into your home. Include earnings from your job as well as any child support or alimony you have been awarded. If you have not yet been awarded any financial help from your spouse because you are in the midst of the divorce, you might need to wait for a temporary judgment.

Now, list all of your expenses. Include your mortgage or rent, utilities, transportation expenses (car payment, gasoline, and car insurance or public transportation card, if your city offers this service), and groceries to start. As long as you can pay for those items, everything else, such as credit card payments and student loans, can sit by the wayside temporarily. Yes, your credit will take a hit, but it’s most important to keep shelter, food, utilities, and whatever transportation you need to get to and from your job. If you have been ordered to pay child support and/or alimony, be sure to include these in your list of expenses that absolutely must be paid.

 

Make Lifestyle Changes

If there are more expenses than income, which is often the case, you’ll need to consider what changes you can make to balance your budget. There are two ways you can fix the situation: One is by bringing in more money and the other is by reducing your expenses. In many cases, you’ll need to do both.

Reducing your expenses is usually easier and requires less time than increasing your income, so focus first on that. Can you downgrade your phone service? Shop at a less expensive grocery store? You might need to cut out your budget for eating out or buying new clothing. If your children need clothing, buy what they need, but you might have to postpone your own purchases or look for used items. Your gym membership might need to be paused for now. In some cases, you might need to relocate to a less expensive home or even move to a less expensive town. (Keep in mind that this could alter your child custody agreement, depending on how far away you need to move.)

Bringing in more income could mean getting a different job or adding a part-time job after your regular workday is done or on weekends. You might also take on freelance projects, depending on whether that is something you can do in your field. A stay-at-home parent might consider opening up an in-home daycare. Or you might offer services such as lawn care or house-cleaning on your days off, particularly during the times that your ex-spouse has the children. (Be sure to check your local laws about licensing when it comes to providing services in your community.)

 

Contact a Legal Resource Group

Of course, you will want to avoid taking on large amounts of debt during your divorce, and this often means forgoing a pricey private attorney. Many divorcing couples try to manage their divorces on their own, but this can lead to poor settlements for both of them. One spouse might end up not getting what he or she is entitled to and the other might end up getting more than what is fair.

A legal resource group like National Family Solutions might be the answer you are looking for. For just a fraction of the cost of a private lawyer, you will have access to expert advice and assistance when it comes to getting through your divorce. Your legal resource group will talk to you about your rights and help you understand what needs to be done to represent yourself in court if it comes down to that. In addition, they can handle the paperwork that goes along with a divorce, from filling it out to maintaining it once the divorce is done.

Going through a divorce is financially draining, but you are not destined to a life of poverty. Getting on a written budget, making the lifestyle changes needed to live below your means, increasing your income, and working with a legal resource group rather than a private attorney will all help you get through your divorce with as few permanent financial ramifications as possible. Remember, this is a temporary situation! You will get back on your feet and will be able to make and save more money. National Family Solutions is here to help, so contact us today to see if we are the right option for managing your divorce.

 

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