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.
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?
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:
- Go through the same process as any individual filing for divorce by obtaining divorce forms and filling out the relevant criteria
- Request the necessary forms for a fee waiver
- Provide financial evidence to the court that you are unable to pay for the necessary fees
- 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.
Im looking for someone to help me with a divorce. Im disabled and was abandoned and left on my in-laws front yard. A week later my husband moved into this married woman’s house after she kicked her husband out. 2 months later she was pregnant. That was really hard for me since I had to have a full blown hysterectomy and could not give him children. We were married in 2001 and he left me on my birthday in 2015 but we are still married and he has since bought a house and has to kids from her now. He hasn’t given me a dime. I need help!!
Please call the office at 800-747-2780 and we can provide you with information regarding fees for our services.
I was served with Divorce papers by my husband. We have Ben married since 2004 – 2022. We lived together for only 4 years. He abandoned me when I had to move back home to take care of my bed ridden father. I was thriving in a Career as a hair designer when I met him and then everything went down hill to the point I needed medication from a doctor because the controlling by him got so bad I had breakdowns. He is trying to say that he supported me yet I was paying my bills and had a very good credit rating. eventually I had to file for Bankruptcy because of the constant spending of his habits. Now I am in low poverty level and struggle to make ends meet. I have never asked for anything during our separation in fact my mother paid him 300 then 200 dollars each month to cover my health insurance. He has not given me any kind of support during our separation. I am not a greedy person at all but since he used me as a dependent for tax purposes through out Our whole separation and He even tried to say that when the government stimulus payment came out that He was sharing His payment which was legally mine . so he has been dishonest about a lot of things. Since I am barely surviving because of Taking care of both my parents unable to work yet he got the perks of using me as a tax right off I feel that I deserve some kind of spouses support . he lied and even became involved with someone else as soon as I moved into my parents home. I think that I have been fair and stayed out of his private life after I moved back home to take care of my dad. I was once a thriving healthy beautiful woman when we met and now I have grown old and A recluse and have been abuse by his lies and family. I believe since He abandoned me at a very difficult time watching my father die and He has never given me any kind of financial help during the separation. Can someone please help me find some justice from ” I am not attracted to you because of your weight gain and you don’t bring in enough money” that was his reason for the break up of Our marriage. He can say drugs use was the reason but He introduced drugs to me when I dudn’t use drugs or even drink when I first met him. I hope you can help me find some justice with his very selfish and denial if facts. Hope to hear from you.
Hello, You should speak with an attorney to ensure you are protecting during this process.
My issue is with child custody and spousal support. The judge threw out spousal because the marriage was too short and now apparently feels bad for my ex in ruling that possibly he shouldn’t have to pay child support. Meanwhile, my ex got an inheritance well over 100k he won’t reveal the amount with me and is complaining about paying anything for his daughter. I left him for abusing me for years. He convinced me to quit my job because we couldn’t find childcare and he promised to follow through with our agreement. That didn’t happen so I filed. I was jobless, homeless and going to school. Now I have a job as a real estate agent but need time to get my business off the ground and he will only pay for things if I promise to go back to him otherwise its screw us.
Child support is directly associated with time share between parents and their respective incomes.
Hello I am seeking help to complete my divorce I do not know what to do everything has been started but it has gotten really dirty n seek legal counsel.
Please give the office a call at 800-747-2780. We may be able to look at your court docket and see where your case is at.
I need help regarding my child custody
If you are unsure legally what to do, you should speak with an attorney. Once they advise you on what you need to do, we may be able to assist in creating your documents. You can call us at 800-747-2780.
Hello what should I do as a husband with three kids my wife has been keeping financial secrets Stealing money from me, Signing up In receiving credit cards in my name receiving government checks in my name and Not telling me and emptied out everything she could in my 401(k) without my consent I am interested in getting a divorce but I don’t feel it’s right to be left with all the debt she put me in
We can certainly help you with creating divorce documents. But you should speak to an attorney regarding anything spouse has stolen from you. You may have to take further legal action to recuperate stolen items. One thing to keep in mind is that in a divorce you and your spouse will have to agree on certain issues. If you don’t, the process can get a little sticky. If you would like to hire our services to create divorce documents, you can call us at 800-747-2780.
I live in Missouri and my wife lives in California she refuses to grant me a divorce. What are my options. I am currently not working on workman’s comp for the last 7 years. We have not been together for 15 years
You can file divorce in California if you want. California does not require a reason for a divorce and the other party does not have to agree to a divorce. Call us at 800-747-2780
My exhusband has not paid alimony in 4 years. He also moved out of state with no notice or letting me know.
He claims he hasn’t earned any money in that time, but how can one live and move across the country with no money.
I need help to take him back to court. Can anyone help me?
You should speak with an attorney to find out your next steps.
Hi j truly need help it am disable father taking much abuse from witch wife help please I dont want her kipping kids she is not fit
If you are in danger, call 911 right away.
I need some help regarding child custody my kids were kidnapped illegally from father
Hello Annette, you may want to obtain legal advice regarding your situation, but should you decide you would like assistance with document preparation, please call the office on 800-747-2780 and a member of staff can assist.