Though there are some signs of improvement, Americans are generally terrible at saving money. Federal government research shows that 47% of Americans would struggle to come up with even $400 to cover an unexpected expense. Most are simply hanging on from paycheck to paycheck. Those people are generally middle class.
The official poverty rate in America is 12.7%, and people in poverty may not be able to come up with any money in a crisis. Divorce can be that crisis, but there are some options for finding financial help for divorce.
Potential costs in a divorce
Divorce is not always expensive, but costs tend to escalate the more you fight over money and kids. Lawyers are expensive, and they usually charge by the hour.
According to a story, many couples can work together to get a divorce completed for around $300. If the divorce is contested the cost can easily rise to $20,000.
Some people have trouble getting their hands on just a few hundred dollars, though. There are some other options to help them.
Most areas have some sort of legal aid organization that will provide free lawyers to represent people that cannot afford to represent themselves. Of course, budgets are limited, so there is not a limitless supply of free lawyers.
Most legal aid organizations run largely on private contributions, or with funding from state and local bar associations or grants from the government. As a result, they have to limit the cases they can take. Some organizations will not take divorce cases, and others will only take serious contested divorces.
Clients must also typically show they are struggling financially before they can get help.
Some places offer people struggling financially “self-help” with divorces. These are usually free walk-in services where people can obtain general legal information about, among other things, how to get a divorce.
These are often staffed by lawyers, but the lawyers usually will not provide legal advice. Instead, they explain things like what forms are needed and how the court process works.
The challenge with a self-help clinic is that the client is left to complete the process of the divorce on their own. In a simple situation, this can just be a matter of a couple splitting their bank account and going their separate ways. It is usually more complicated, though.
Working out complex child custody and support issues can be hard without an experienced lawyer on hand. Most family law courts are very helpful to individuals without a lawyer, though.
Ultimately, a court is a dispute resolution system and it takes money to keep them running. Courts typically charge a fee, often a few hundred dollars, to file a divorce. Almost every court has a process for waiving that fee for people that cannot afford it.
Related costs can also usually be waived. This can include things like copies of official documents, cost of attending required classes or getting papers delivered (served) to the other spouse.