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Keith A
03-26-2012, 01:04 PM
I have a friend who's husband recently asked her for a divorce. They have two children and she has a small income. She has no living family members to assist her -- and her husband is already trying to force his terms of the divorce upon her. He makes significantly more (3x) what she does and has wealthy parents to back him too. He has threatened to "bury her with legal fees" if she opposes him. She is lost and scared and doesn't know what to do.

I have zero experience with the legal system, but my first thought was that she has to get some legal counsel ASAP. The problem is that she doesn't have the money to hire someone. So what are her options? Are there any firms or organizations that provide legal counsel for low-income families?

I would really appreciate any input you guys/gals might have.

AngryScientist
03-26-2012, 01:19 PM
I have no professional advice on the matter, but sincerely hope it works out for your friend. tough situation, and she is lucky to have you as a friend, i think your inclination is dead on.

EDS
03-26-2012, 01:26 PM
She should spend some time on-line educating herself as to the laws in her jurisdiction. She should try contacting the state/city bar association as they may be able to provide information on (a) divorce attorneys in her areas and/or (b) pro bono programs which she may qualify for.

Tell her not to sign anything, whatever she does. If there has been infidelity or other foul play involved, then that complicates things - though would give her ammunition for a more favorable settlement if it was the husband that did the bad deeds.

SamIAm
03-26-2012, 01:33 PM
I have a friend who's husband recently asked her for a divorce. They have two children and she has a small income. She has no living family members to assist her -- and her husband is already trying to force his terms of the divorce upon her. He makes significantly more (3x) what she does and has wealthy parents to back him too. He has threatened to "bury her with legal fees" if she opposes him. She is lost and scared and doesn't know what to do.

I have zero experience with the legal system, but my first thought was that she has to get some legal counsel ASAP. The problem is that she doesn't have the money to hire someone. So what are her options? Are there any firms or organizations that provide legal counsel for low-income families?

I would really appreciate any input you guys/gals might have.

I don't have any great answers, but I have seen this played out too many times before. As her friend, you need to first ensure that she makes no decision under duress or out of weakness. She needs to stand firm and not seem the least bit intimidated by these tactics. You are doing a good thing, follow through.

Uncle Jam's Army
03-26-2012, 01:50 PM
Not sure what jurisdiction your friend is in, but, if it is anything like California, legal fees are paid according to how much each spouse makes (i.e., the higher earning spouse has to pick up some or all of the fees for the spouse making less). There are local bar associations that also have referral services for people who cannot afford counsel or who have limited means. She should check with her local bar associations. Also, although I know it is not cheap, paying for one hour of a family lawyer's time for a consultation on her options and the process is well worth the money, IMO.

twangston73
03-26-2012, 01:51 PM
Yes, definitely contact your local or state bar association. Some have referral hotlines, or can put you in touch with pro bono options. Also, in some cases/jurisdictions the court will order the better-off spouse to advance funds if there is a significant disparity in resources. Sorry to hear about a tough situation but there may be some options and she should not sign anything out of desperation.

bumknees
03-26-2012, 01:57 PM
she may try looking at any nearby FL law schools. Many law schools have clinics that offer pro bono services

Keith A
03-26-2012, 01:58 PM
Thanks for the input so far...I really appreciate it! As for the location, it is in Florida.

LegendRider
03-26-2012, 02:03 PM
Click on the pro bono / legal aid link at the Florida Bar website:

http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/flabarwe.nsf

pedlpwrd
03-26-2012, 02:06 PM
Hey Keith,
Try looking online for any free consultation offices, also there are many states that offer pro-bono help or legal access assistance from the state offices. If I were her, the first thing I would do is contact her state bar association, as others here have already suggested. I'd ask them for any info on state assisted legal help. She should really find out what her state statutes are. For example, Ca. and NY are both states where there is an accountable party for the divorce (ie: unfaithful spouse, abandonment etc.) but some states, Az. I know is one, is considered a "no blame" state and assests are divided equal regardless (crap if you ask me) but it is that way in places. Do an online search for LEGAL AID and see if her state has any of it there. The first thing she must remember is to stay mentally strong as much as she can because most states, unfortunately, are money talks. I hope some of this can be of help to her. Keep us posted if you don't mind, I'd like to know she comes out alright and we'll be sending positive thoughts her way.
Good luck man.

Louis
03-26-2012, 02:33 PM
She should spend some time on-line educating herself as to the laws in her jurisdiction.

I think this is a recipe for confusion. Even the simplest legal document or summary of a given law can baffle non-lawyers. "Divorce Laws of the State of XXX" would not be the place I would choose to start educating myself.

Keith A
03-26-2012, 03:07 PM
Click on the pro bono / legal aid link at the Florida Bar website:

http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/flabarwe.nsfThanks to all that have responded! This link looks promising and I found a group in our county that might be able to help. I'll certainly let you guys know how this turns out.

tiretrax
03-26-2012, 03:17 PM
Although it doesn't sound like the husband would be inclined, she should insist on a collaborative divorce in the interest of the children. That tends to diffuse many issues.

ORMojo
03-26-2012, 03:22 PM
This just sucks. My father, who divorced my mother when I was 12, told me on his deathbed that his one regret in life was breaking up the family. I have seen too many ugly, or at a minimum extremely painful, divorces. And a surprising number that come to regret the divorce.

You mentioned that there are two children involved. That makes it even worse, IMO. If she isn't already aware of this, please make sure your friend knows that child support isn't something to be negotiated at all. It is set by guidelines defined by law. In Florida's case, the on-line reference starts here http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/childsupport/guidelines.html and the Florida child support calculator is here http://www.alllaw.com/calculators/Childsupport/Florida/ (I was surprised to see only 7 lines on the FL calculator - I helped a friend through a divorce here in Oregon, and the OR child support calculator has a minimum of 15 lines, plus many optional entries, and that is simplified from a couple of years ago.)

Keith A
03-26-2012, 03:37 PM
Thanks again for the great information. I am gathering all this up and will be sending this to my friend.

93legendti
03-26-2012, 04:23 PM
http://www.floridalegal.org/
Legal aid in Florida

Richard
03-26-2012, 04:28 PM
All good advice. Buy her this book.."The Truth about Children and Divorce." It is by Robert E. Emery. It will help her with the emotional part and provide some perspective that she may be able to impart to her husband.

Liv2RideHard
03-26-2012, 04:31 PM
I am sorry to hear about the situation your friend is in, especially since there are children involved. All I can suggest is that she contact her Pastor, if she has one. Again, if she has one, maybe the church could help out in some way. Perhaps a parishioner that is a lawyer would give her counsel at no cost. If not maybe point her in the right direction. All the best to her and you for helping her out. Wish I could do more.

djg21
03-26-2012, 04:43 PM
I have a friend who's husband recently asked her for a divorce. They have two children and she has a small income. She has no living family members to assist her -- and her husband is already trying to force his terms of the divorce upon her. He makes significantly more (3x) what she does and has wealthy parents to back him too. He has threatened to "bury her with legal fees" if she opposes him. She is lost and scared and doesn't know what to do.

I have zero experience with the legal system, but my first thought was that she has to get some legal counsel ASAP. The problem is that she doesn't have the money to hire someone. So what are her options? Are there any firms or organizations that provide legal counsel for low-income families?

I would really appreciate any input you guys/gals might have.

Your advice to get legal counsel is sound. She should speak to a local matrimonial attorney who is familar with the jurisdiction in which she resides. My understanding is that fees can often be negotiated as part of a divorce settlement, such that if hubby has the funds (or controls them) he will pay fees.

If unable to secure private counsel, your friend should contact legal aid or any similar pro bono organizations. I would assume a local lawyer would consult with her and refer her to the appropriate organizations if unable or unwilling to represent her.

rbtmcardle
03-26-2012, 04:56 PM
I find myself in the middle of this now.. though not in any way a similar circumstance.. I would definitely ask around, many attorneys here in NJ will offer a free consult.. at the very least it will give her some confidence to know the facts from an knowledgeable source and may even lead to some pro bono work on her behalf.

IMPT: Tell her to take copies of whatever info she has - W2's, bank statements, tax returns etc.. and most importantly, to be honest with her answers. This way she will get the most bang for her buck (or no bucks) at the consult.

In NJ, the factors leading up to the divorce are of no consequence, NJ became a no fault state many years ago.. marriage is essentially a business arrangement.. it doesnt matter who did or didnt do what..

At least that is my understanding.. I am not a lawyer, and no I didnt sleep at holiday inn last night either..

Fixed
03-26-2012, 05:09 PM
[QUOTE=93legendti;1107700]http://www.floridalegal.org/
county bar pro bono
cheers

weaponsgrade
03-26-2012, 06:23 PM
Another resource to check out is the divorce guide put out by Nolo Press. It's definitely not a substitute for a good family lawyer but it's written for nonlawyers and will give a general overview of how the law works.

Polyglot
03-27-2012, 01:28 AM
I went through a similar situation about 10 years ago, where one of my neighbors asked for help. After listening to her story and seeing the respective life situations, I thought that she was being unfairly treated. I helped her as best as can be, including going to court on her behalf. 10 years later, I hugely regret the help that I gave her. She was not interested in fairness, she was solely driven by spite and vindictiveness. The family courts have seen it all before and are generally quite capable of differentiating between positions of power and weakness and will generally do the right thing if provided with full information. Unless you are fully aware of all the dynamics (which is virtually impossible to know), my suggestion would be to keep your distance and limit yourself to putting her into contact with appropriate legal counsel.

bikingshearer
03-27-2012, 01:54 AM
Another resource to check out is the divorce guide put out by Nolo Press. It's definitely not a substitute for a good family lawyer but it's written for nonlawyers and will give a general overview of how the law works.

A very big +1. Nolo Press is her friend. Here is a link that can help get her started.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/florida-divorce-31662.html

Even if she gats a lawyer (and it sounds like she should), Nolo Press books will help her understand what to look for in a lawyer, what the steps ahead are likely to be, and in general will help make understanding what the lawyer tells her a lot easier.

This does not sound like a situation where DIY or even collaborative divorce procedures are a good idea (collaborative divorce can be a smart way to go when both parties are prepared to be reasonable, which does not sound like the case here, at leat not yet - maybe once hubby figures out that he is going ot have to pay for his lawyer and a good chuck of her lawyer, he'll get religion and be more reasonable, but he likely will have to be whacked across the snout by the system a time or two before he gets it).

As for the various suggestions re legal aid, state and county bar assoiciation lawyer referral services, anothr big +1.

Your friend's soon-to-be-ex's "I will bury you" attitude is not at all uncommon. The final outcome is rarely that dire. But she is going to have to prepare herself to be strong. Also, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Finally, please remind her to do what she can to keep the kids out of the middle. Don't bad-mouth Dad, even if he richly deserves it. Don't complain about late chil support payments, don't withhold court-orderd visitation/custody, don't do anything to use them as ammo. It's bad for the kids. It is possible that Dad is a jerk to your friend but good with the kids. The kids deserve to continue to have that. And if Dad is a jerk, they'll figure it out over time. But let them figure it out. Believe me, both your friend and the kids will come out ahead if she plays it straight. Remind her that this is for the kids, not Dad or even Mom.

Fixed
03-27-2012, 03:11 AM
so sad when once so full of love becomes so full of hate .
sorry for the kids cheers

schwa86
03-27-2012, 06:45 AM
I am a former legal services attorney. In general, I think you are not going to have much luck finding legal services help for "basic" divorces. Most legal services programs are restricted to people with extremely low incomes, and even then they are so underfunded that they can't help everyone who comes in. That said, I don't know FL situation specifically. If there are specific issues, like domestic violence involved, then they will sometimes take on the divorce case as well. Programs do sometimes offer pro se (self represented) sessions to help people understand process etc.

The bar assn option is best. Many will offer sliding scale etc. Of course, just like bike shops there are lawyers and there are lawyers, so a little poking around never hurts re specific referrals and names.

djg
03-27-2012, 08:19 AM
So this is not legal advice, but to sum up what others are saying -- the bar association, legal aid, and a family law clinic (on referral) at a good law school are places to start.

And while waiting to find or decide on representation, just be careful. Don't sign anything, don't chat with the husband's attorney, don't agree to be recorded.

Self-education can be a fine thing too, but it seems to me to be an extremely risky proposition as a main approach, done in real time, while mixed up in an important (to one's self) controversy -- it's just too easy to miss key points, or to read something in a way that's plausible for ordinary usage but fundamentally misleading under the law . . . things could go very wrong.

Keith A
03-27-2012, 10:21 AM
Thanks for everyone's help and input! Doug, I also really appreciate your summary. Now I need to collect all this info and give to her...and try and keep her from being overwhelmed.