I can’t afford a lawyer for my whole divorce, can I hire one just for the hearing?

Can I Hire One Lawyer For The Divorce Hearing?

If your spouse’s attorney has already served you with divorce papers, you should get legal advice as quickly as possible. Divorce and family law rules differ from state to state, so you’ll have a lot to learn to get up to speed unless you already know your state laws and local rules.

A little error in your documentation can have life-long effects or unforeseen consequences in the field of family law. It’s better not to take on an experienced family law attorney by yourself because the stakes are so high and personal in a divorce.

Hiring a lawyer

Most family lawyers require a retainer, which is like an advance deposit on the hourly fee. The retainer is deposited into the lawyer’s client trust account, which holds client funds that have not yet been earned. The law firm then charges by the hour for their services, usually monthly or at some regular interval. The law firm expects that the client will maintain a minimum retainer (often called an “evergreen”) on account as long as the case is ongoing. This means that if you fall below the minimum retainer amount, you will be required to replenish the retainer. Once the case is completed and no more work is left to be done, then any amount remaining on retainer will be returned.

Ideally, you will be able to afford to hire a lawyer from your savings or income. Alternatively, perhaps a family member can help you, or you can pay on a credit card.

Consult a lawyer for free

Some lawyers, like our team at Cohen and Winters, provide free consultations, which are usually conducted over the phone or via video conferencing. Even if it’s only a 30-minute call, you’ll at least have a clearer idea of what you’re getting yourself into. 

See what type of legal aid is available

Legal aid is a broad term that refers to any service that provides legal help to people who otherwise would not be able to afford it. These services vary greatly depending on the area, but they should all provide pro gratis (a Latin term that means “for the public good”) services. As can be expected, there is a much greater demand for free legal services then availability. Often, even if you are eligible, there are long waiting periods. However, it is worth checking what programs are available and if you might quality.

In addition to pro bono services, there are some “reduced fee” programs for people with “modest means”, who can afford to make some payment, but not a full retainer.

Limited representation

Another possibility some law firms offer is known as “limited representation”. This means that the law firm only commits to helping the client with a “limited” portion of the case. This may be reviewing and preparing documents, general advice, or attending one particular court hearing or mediation. The advantage to the client is that because the firm is not obligated to do as much work, it will usually require a much lower retainer. In this way some clients who are short on funds can still get representation for the most important or difficult parts of the case, while handling more routine aspects pro se.

Finally to answer the question the question can I hire one lawyer for the divorce hearing? Cohen & Winters would be happy to speak with you to discus your options. Our New Hampshire family law team is committed to helping people from all backgrounds. Contact us for help on your divorce case. Even if we are not the right team for you , we may be able to direct you toward resources that could help you with.


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