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Can’t Afford a Lawyer for My Divorce | WA

Samuel K. Darling, Divorce & Business Lawyer at Genesis Law Firm's headquarters in Everett, WA

by Samuel K. Darling, Everett Divorce & Family Law Attorney

As a family law attorney in Washington, people frequently ask me what to do if they are divorcing here but cannot afford a lawyer. Fortunately our state has numerous low-cost and free resources available. The following are some of the best I have come across, sorted by whether they are low-cost or free:

 

Best Low-Cost Resources for WA Divorces (for Free Resources, See Further Down)

  • Limited-License Legal Technicians. Limited-license legal technicians (LLLTs) hold a new category of legal license expressly created to assist Washingtonians who cannot afford attorneys. LLLTs can draft all your family law and divorce-related documents and give legal advice. Their only meaningful limitation is that they cannot attend court on your behalf. Of note, LLLTs and paralegals are NOT the same. Paralegals do not have adequate legal training to practice law without attorney supervision. LLLTs do. In essence, LLLTs are the nurse practitioners of the legal world.
  • Flat Fee Agreed Divorce Services (Attorney Supervised). Parties who agree on all the terms of their divorce can use a flat fee agreed divorce service and spend considerably less than they would on a typical divorce attorney. When my clients agree on all terms, I send them to an attorney-supervised agreed divorce service named Peaceful Separations. Peaceful Separations charges around $600 – $700 per case, which includes the over $300 court filing fee. I have no affiliation with Peaceful Separations—my recommendation is completely unbiased. As a word of warning, you should only use a flat fee divorce service if it has a licensed Washington attorney on staff. From what I have seen, paralegal-only services and online programs often result in horribly botched divorces that can be expensive or impossible to fix.
  • Courthouse Packets. Some, or perhaps all, Washington Superior Court clerk’s offices sell divorce packets for $50 or less. The packets contain forms and instructions.
  • Family Law Facilitators. Similarly some, or perhaps all, Washington Superior Court buildings have family law facilitators who can assist you in locating and reviewing divorce and family law forms for about $10 per session. Unlike LLLTs (see above), family law facilitators cannot offer legal advice, and they will not draft or complete documents for you.
  • Unbundled Legal Services. Unbundled legal services means hiring an attorney to perform limited tasks rather than full representation, and most Washington divorce attorneys will do it if you ask. Unbundled representation can be the key to effectively pulling together numerous low-cost divorce resources. For example, you might purchase a divorce packet at the courthouse, have a family law facilitator initially help you complete the documents, and then have an attorney help you review and revise the completed documents. Attorneys typically charge their normally hourly rate for unbundled services.

Best Free Resources for WA Divorces

  • Northwest Justice Project, also Known as CLEAR. If you income qualify, you might receive live legal assistance from Northwest Justice Project by calling 1-888-201-1014. Expect to spend a few hours trying to get through on the phone—these services are in high demand. I personally volunteer there, as do most divorce and family law attorneys I know. Many law firms—ours included—will only take pro bono (unpaying) divorce and family law clients if we meet them through Northwest Justice Project.
  • Resources On Our Website. Our firm believes in making attorney-level legal information available for free online. To this end, our website contains a wealth of free information in virtually every topic pertaining to divorce, including how-to articles and explanations of the entire process. You can find the divorce-related articles at https://www.genesislawfirm.com/divorce-family-law-articles-publications. A good article to start with is Divorce in Washington State: An Overview & How-To Guide. It is an overview but links to our how-to articles after summarizing each step. That effectively makes it a one-stop guide to nearly everything you might want to know.
  • Divorce in Snohomish County Website. I have a free Google Sites website called “Divorce in Snohomish County” that offers instructional articles on ten of the most common divorce-related questions. To find the website, perform a web search for “Divorce in Snohomish County”.
  • Official Washington State Legal Templates. Washington’s official divorce and family law forms are available online at http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/.
  • WashingtonLawHelp.Org. Free divorce and family law packets are available online at http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/issues/family-law.
  • Online Child Support Calculator. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has published a free online child support calculator. You can access it by clicking here: https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/csips/ssgen. It can be a bit confusing without any background instruction. You might want to start with our firm’s article on Calculating Child Support: The Basics.
  • Washington’s Statutes. All of Washington’s statutes are feely accessible online. The family law statutes are organized within Title 26 RCW, which you can find here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26. More specifically, the divorce statutes are primarily available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26.09, the child support statutes are mostly available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26.19, and the parentage statutes are at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26.26.
  • Washington’s Court Rules. Washington’s state-wide and local court rules are available for free at http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/. Of note, both the state and local rules apply to your proceeding, so reading only one set of rules might leave gaps in your knowledge. If your case is in Snohomish County, you might do best to read my “Divorce in Snohomish County” website (see above) for some practical help with these rules.

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10 thoughts on “Can’t Afford a Lawyer for My Divorce | WA”

  1. My husband left our daughter and I 3 years ago. The day he physically hurt me infront of our daughter is the last day he was in our home. He was having an affair and left to be with her. He refused to divorce me and made threats if I tried to follow through with it because he didn’t want to pay me money for our child. He feels I should do it on own sense I turned him in to the police. Now he has moved to Texas and has a new child with this person he left me for. I just want him out of my life for good. I don’t care about getting anything from him. He has left me with all the debt that I am being garnished for. I just want to do the most simple way and be over with it. Due to the garnishments and lack of income I am unable to get this divorce done. Is there a way you can help?

    1. Hi Tabitha, this is Sam, the author of the article. I’m sorry. The comments section of this article is for comments about the article rather than the application of the law to a person’s situation. You could review our how-to articles, which I believe explain how to get divorced in your situation. Or, if you lack the financial ability to hire someone and are having difficulty using our how-to guides, you could call Northwest Justice Project (A.K.A. “Clear”) for free legal assistance. When I have the ability, I volunteer with Clear, as do many other family law attorneys. As a general rule I only take pro bono clients if I have met them through Clear.

  2. Such amazing content to have. One of my friends has been asking me a question regarding divorce however, I believe it is not my field of expertise to give advice to her. Would recommend this post to her. She really needs it!

    Great article!!!

  3. Hi I wonder what will be the option for a simples divorce process , I can no get along any more my hose turned to a trash an she don’t care I have two kinds and she tread , harass tl he all day long and battery . I don’t know if is apropiaré to do a property to do property damage fir the hay my house look inside . Need your thought about it is been true this situation 11 years

  4. Hello,
    My wife was recently shot in Kenmore and has a pending case but it will most likely be dropped.
    But she has been using drugs and is irrational and I cant take it anymore.
    I want to file for divorce and would like some flat fee rate. We do not have anything to split nor do we have kids. She says she wont sign the papers for divorce.
    I know there are steps to take in this case.
    Please help.
    James

    1. Hi James, sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately we can’t use this comments section to provide advice specific to a person’s situation – we can only speak in generalities and hypotheticals. You’d be welcome to call our firm at 866-631-0028 if you’d like to hire someone. If you’d rather do it yourself, see our Divorce Guide and our article on default. Hope that helps.

  5. My brother in law is having an issue with his divorce. His personal income is too high to gain access to low-income resources, and he cant afford anything because all of his income is the only source of income for the home, and she is spending everything in the account to prevent him from doing anything against her during the divorce, such as hiring an attorney. He is in desperate need for advice as to what he can do. He is lost, and no one I know of knows what to do about this situation. Please reach out with a good source of contact for finding out what he can do about this situation.

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