You’ve probably heard the phrase “pro bono” before, but do you know where it comes from? Pro bono derives from the Latin expression pro bono publico, which means “for the good of the public.” The term is most often linked to professionals providing a service at a lowered cost or free of charge. That’s why a “pro bono divorce lawyers” is a divorce lawyer who works free of charge.

Why would a lawyer choose to do this? Some professionals, including lawyers, choose to do pro bono work for individuals who are unable to pay their fees or as an act of charity. Individuals who can’t pay for a lawyer may seek out pro bono services due to their circumstances. Professionals in various sectors also provide pro bono services to non-profit organizations. These organizations can range from educational, healthcare, and religious institutions to foundations and charities.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce without the financial means to hire an attorney, this concept may very well pique your interest. Read on to find out more about pro bono divorce attorneys in California—and who might qualify for this type of assistance.

What our Clients Say...
“I used A People’s Choice to complete custody paperwork. No disappointment here. The service was easy and painless. It might have been nice to have a discussion by phone, but it was still quite easy and quick via email. Overall, the process was simple and I would use A People’s Choice again.”
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Juan B.
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Les A.
“Lightning fast response, I had my very simple document on the same day as my order for the very fair and reasonable price of $325 (including the rush fee!) compared to my attorney who quoted me 3 weeks and $2500. I will definitely use these folks again and highly recommend them!”
L. Carnes
The service provided by A People’s Choice was very professional and comprehensive. We have used A People’s Choice on a previous occasion and were completely satisfied. We would highly recommend A People’s Choice to anyone!
R. Betancourt
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Leigh A.
I’ve worked with A People’s Choice since September 2013.  They are very knowledgeable and experienced.  Their work is done professionally and timely.  They show a real concern for my situation.  I recommend you give them the opportunity to be of service to you.”
D. Echeverra
“Divorce is usually never pleasant but A People’s Choice made it much easier than it would have been if we tried to do the divorce paperwork on our own. They were very quick to respond to us and always took the time to answer all of our questions thoroughly, in addition to quickly. I would highly recommend them for handling divorce paperwork.”
Susan Z.
“So glad I found this company to handle my divorce. They were very professional and detail oriented, answering all of my (many) questions and kept me informed. They handled everything for me from hundreds of miles away and made it pretty seamless. The pricing was in the exact range we were looking for. Very honest company and great to work with!”
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“I recently required the help of A People’s Choice, Inc. and found them to be entirely professional. Everything was done in short order yet all was explained to my satisfaction. They were friendly and courteous. I am happy and impressed.”
C. Zyobel
“I thought I could save money and file my own divorce paperwork. The court clerks offer no assistance whatsoever! The best advice I can give is to call A People’s Choice first. They typed up my paperwork and my divorce was final in two weeks! Would highly recommend them to everyone.”
L. Bayer
“I was very happy with the service received. They were extremely responsive by phone and email and completed the document in less than 24 hours! All questions were answered promptly. I would highly recommend this service to anyone needing a legal document prepared!”
“Great service. Highly professional and efficient creating legal documents. I am completely satisfied and highly recommend them to others. I am so glad I found you on the internet. People who are looking for professional legal services look no further, try A People’s Choice.”
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“A People’s Choice is extremely customer orientated and friendly.  Their service was fast and reliable. in the future, should I need their services again, I will not hesitate to call them. All e-mails were answered with either a phone call or e-mail sometimes even late at night
“I needed help understanding and filling out legal documents, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for an attorney. The staff at A People’s Choice was very professional and helpful. They took care of all of the paperwork and filings and kept me posted. I would highly recommend them. You will get outstanding service at an affordable price. “
Sharon B.
My wife and I needed to have papers filed in court but found traditional lawyers were quite expensive. A People’s Choice did a professional job completing our paperwork and I might say, at a very reasonable price. You can bet I will contact A People’s Choice again if or when the need arises.
D. Hileman
“Very professional, excellent follow up and easy to work with. I will recommend them often! The staff rocks!”
Gene A.
“I had contacted a lawyer and he wanted to charge me $1800.00. Then I found A People’s Choice. They got my paperwork started and at a much lower cost, and steered me, with the help of lots of paperwork, in the right direction. I am grateful for the company’s services and would recommend them to anyone that may need the services they offer.”
April R.
“I used A People’s Choice for filing divorce paperwork for an uncontested divorce. The price was very affordable and fair. Excellent service throughout. Not being able to call and talk on the phone worried me at first but they responded to every email extremely quickly. Directions were very easy to understand. Will definitely use them again if I need.
Frank M.
“I can’t say enough about the level of service and professionalism I received working with A People’s Choice. Emails were always responded to quickly and thoughtfully. They really care about the process and helping you get the best result with no up-selling. The process played out according to plan, and I ended up saving a lot of money by going with A People’s Choice over an attorney.”
M. Rice
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“This company is excellent! They helped me get through all of my paperwork, submitted it to the court, and now everything is complete. Everything was clear and almost too easy. I saved thousands of dollars!”
Seth M.
“When I first saw all of the documents required to file I was overwhelmed. Already dealing with the stress of everything else, I did not want to deal with the courts, a mountain load of paperwork and trips to file as well. I’m VERY happy that I went with A People’s Choice. They were very helpful, despite all of my questions. I definitely recommend.”
M. McCleod

Is “Pro Bono” Really Free?

The short answer? Yes. Attorneys who represent the best interests of the public sometimes provide free legal assistance to those who qualify on a pro bono status. Pro bono services for individuals generally assist neglected populations and deprived communities that don’t have access to legal aid due to low income.

The U.S. has a long-standing tradition of providing pro bono work like this. In fact, the American Bar Association, which caters to a pro bono sector on its website, advises that all lawyers donate at least 50 hours of their time to pro bono work every year. All state and local bar associations have pro bono committees where attorneys can volunteer their services and time. The United States Department of Justice can provide a list of pro bono legal service providers by state.

There are numerous public interest law organizations that exist to arrange pro bono or lower-cost legal services to communities, populations, and individuals in different areas of law. A prime example would be the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, which provides legal assistance focused on the development of welfare programs.

On a larger scale, attorneys can donate their legal services and financial benefits to organizations that back social causes, such as the prevention of domestic violence or environmental issues. Legal professionals also have the option to contribute their pro bono time and effort to developing and modifying the law through lobbying.

How Can I Find Pro Bono Divorce Lawyers in California?

If you’re interested in investigating the possibility of locating pro bono divorce lawyers who might be able to help, you have to start with a search. Finding free or low-cost legal advice from an attorney in California can be challenging since they are, understandably, in high demand.

The good news is that if you are looking for pro bono divorce lawyers or other legal help but lack the relevant income to pay for it, you’ve got lots of options depending on your situation. Here are some good choices:

  • Dispute resolution programs: These programs are a way to mediate your issue without going to court and needing a lawyer. This works best for civil issues, such as divorce.
  • Court-based self-help services: These are offered by all California superior courts. This option was established to assist individuals who cannot afford a lawyer and are representing themselves.
  • Legal aid agencies: These are non-profit organizations that offer free legal services to those who fall below a certain income level. If you are in a difficult financial situation, they may represent you and file a fee waiver on your behalf. However, you need to prove your low income to receive help from them.
  • Lawyer referral services: These can inform you about free or low-cost legal assistance in your area.
  • Law schools: Sometimes, law schools offer free legal services for certain cases.
  • Prepaid legal service plan. You may belong to one through your work, union, or credit union. Generally, most legal plans provide advice and assistance through the telephone, brief office consultations, legal document review, and other various methods.
  • Public defender: Defendants in criminal cases can qualify for free legal assistance from their local public defender’s office. You can find these agencies in the blue pages or online. In a divorce, you’d only need this if there are serious extenuating circumstances (such as domestic violence charges) involved.
  • Pro bono divorce lawyers: If you get contact information for pro bono divorce lawyers, you can speak with them directly and discuss the possibility of them the case pro bono. The attorney may also choose to take a notably lower fee than usually charged.
  • Legal document preparation service like A People’s Choice. This works well if you simply need assistance filling out legal forms correctly.

What Is the Average Retainer for a Divorce Attorney?

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Getting a divorce in California can be quite an expensive process. A divorce attorney can usually charge fees ranging from anywhere between $150 to $600 per hour. The average cost of a divorce in California can be estimated at $25,000. The ultimate cost depends on the spouses, their domestic situation, and what they want out of the divorce.

Certain divorce lawyers have a flat fee, while others require a retainer. A retainer fee is quite common with divorce lawyers, as they act as a down payment for their services. It represents an estimate of how much it would cost to handle the case.

A typical retainer fee can range anywhere from $1,000 to over $5,000. Depending on the divorce attorney and the circumstances of the case, most clients can expect to pay a retainer fee between $3,000 to $5,000.

The retainer works as an agreement between you and the lawyer. It lists:

  • The lawyer’s fees
  • Fees for other law firm employees who will work on your case
  • Any extra expenses covered by the retainer (court costs, administration fees, and copy fees)
  • When the lawyer can transfer the funds to their business account

A great benefit to paying a divorce attorney’s retainer is that you are immediately given access to the attorney’s legal services and time. This makes it possible to receive the necessary guidelines on how to handle your case from the beginning—if you can afford it. Be aware that a retainer fee may not be refundable in certain circumstances.

What If I Can’t Afford a Divorce?

If you are in a difficult financial situation, don’t despair. You can get a California divorce without paying any court fees at all.

The state of California offers an indigent divorce or fee waiver that allows an individual to file for divorce and request the court fees linked to the process be waived. This option was established to assist those who seek a divorce but don’t have the financial means to obtain it.

You need to follow the procedures established by the California courts to have the relevant fees waived. If you’d like to investigate this option, you need to take these steps:

  1. Go through the same process as any individual filing for divorce by obtaining divorce forms and filling out the relevant criteria
  2. Request the necessary forms for a fee waiver
  3. Provide financial evidence to the court that you are unable to pay for the necessary fees
  4. After a hearing, your waiver may be approved or deferred depending on the circumstances of the marriage.

Affordable Help Is Available

The term “pro bono” is often used by legal professionals, and many factors play into the reason a lawyer might conduct pro bono work. It could be an act of goodwill, or it could be to promote an image to the public or create new business connections. What is important is that individuals receive the help they need.

Pro bono divorce lawyers do exist, but divorce lawyers can also offer their services pro bono or at a lower cost if they are presented with the individual’s circumstances and legal needs, but a pro bono attorney isn’t your only option if you’re tight on cash. Getting a divorce in California doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful. You have the option of consulting with the non-profit organizations and government agencies that may be able to provide legal assistance for someone in your shoes.

For simpler divorce cases, in which the two parties can amicably agree on the terms of their divorce, a lawyer may not be necessary at all. The California courts website offers guidance through its self-help center, providing many of the basic documents needed to file for divorce. You can request a fee waiver from your local California courthouse so long as you follow the procedures set to have the waiver approved; this can eliminate all filing costs normally associated with a divorce.

There are also various sites such as A People’s Choice, that can provide the necessary paperwork you need to begin the process. If you find handling the paperwork to be challenging, then A People’s Choice may be the perfect option for you. We can assist you with filing for your divorce for a fraction of what it would cost you to pay a California divorce attorney. Although our legal document assistants will not be able to provide legal advice, they can walk you through each step of the divorce process.