What Are the Requirements to Get Legal Aid for a Divorce?

by Sara Melone

Divorce can be expensive. The most simple divorces can cost around $1,500 in fees and more complex divorces may cost upwards of $15,000. The total cost of a divorce can include attorney's fees, court fees, and other administrative costs. The price may be beyond the financial means of some people, but legal aid programs may be available to help those in need who might otherwise be forced to remain in an unhealthy marriage as a result of financial concerns.

Income Level

Generally, for an individual to be able to qualify for legal aid in a divorce case, the individual's income level must be thoroughly assessed beforehand. The qualifying income level for legal aid can vary from state to state and may even vary in from county to county. For most states, the legal aid criteria is that an applicant's income level must be less than 125% of the federal poverty level.

Elderly and Disabled

Some elderly individuals may be able to qualify for financial aid to help with the cost of a divorce. Elderly people living on a fixed income who have significant financial expenses related to health issues are often given special consideration. Certain individuals of any age may also be able to qualify for legal aid if they are disabled or suffering from an illness.

Special Circumstances

In certain cases with other special circumstances, an individual may be able to qualify for legal aid to help cover divorce expenses. Special circumstances may include spousal abuse or child abuse. If any individual's safety is at risk, there may be an increased likelihood of qualifying for a legal assistance program. Some private institutions also provide special assistance for specific groups of people, such as breast cancer survivors or military members.

Pro Bono

An individual seeking legal aid for a divorce might also consider searching for an attorney who does pro bono work. The American Bar Association recommends that each practicing attorney complete at least 50 hours of pro bono work per year. "Pro bono" literally means "for good," and many lawyers take on pro bono cases in their practice as a matter of course. Litigants need not qualify based on any special circumstances or income level restrictions since the case is accepted as a part of charitable works.


For most legal aid cases, an applicant must fill out extensive paperwork in order to be considered. The application process can be lengthy and may require a complete examination of an individual's financial records, income, and personal situation.

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About the Author

Sara Melone is a mother of three and a graduate of UNH. With prior careers in insurance and finance, photography, as well as certifications in fitness and nutrition, Melone draws directly from past experience and varying interests. She contributes with equal passion to birth journals, investment blogs, and self-help websites.

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