How to Get a Divorce Attorney When You Can't Afford One

By Roger Thorne J.D.

Updated July 21, 2017

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Getting the right lawyer for your divorce case can be tough, especially when you don't have the money to pay legal fees. While you may not always be able to get the services of a divorce lawyer if you can't afford one, you can take steps to try to find a lawyer who will help you. Lawyers often offer their services to low-income clients for free or reduced rates.

Call your state or local bar association. Lawyers often give pro bono, or free, services to indigent or low-income clients. Ask if the association has a list of such attorneys, a layer referral service or contact information for legal aid services in your area. Even if you can't find a lawyer who will take your case, you should be able to get some kind of help, or at least advice on where to look.

Call local attorneys. If you can't find an attorney through the state bar association, call a few local family law lawyers and explain what you are looking for. You may not be able to talk to an attorney, but the office secretary or a paralegal might be able to give you advice about attorneys to contact or legal aid agencies that can help.

Call the courthouse. Some courthouses offer facilitator services, or help to people representing themselves in court cases, who are called pro-se litigants.

Contact a legal services organization in your area. These organizations specialize in providing legal assistance to people in need.


People involved in divorce proceedings can't use the public defender's office. Public defenders are appointed only in criminal cases. A divorce is a civil case--a lawsuit--and you are not entitled to have an attorney appointed in a civil case, even if you are unable to pay for one.