Cannot afford a lawyer. Tips for Pro Se? Pro Bono?

Asked 12 months ago - Northbrook, IL

My wife served me with divorce papers last week claiming irreconcilable differences. She hired a lawyer. I don't know where she got money considering she's always short on cash and I fund her almost every 2 weeks. Out of my net pay, 95% of it goes towards paying mortgages, utilities, CCs, 3 car loans, and kid's school loans. I have 401k, but have 2 loans outstanding from it and cannot take out another loan. Credit cards are maxed. I was recently turned down for new credit. If you look at my salary, it looks like I can afford it. But reality is I cannot. Are there any organizations in Northern Illinois (excluding Chicago) where an attorney can represent me Pro Bono? I have been doing a lot research and it appears Pro Se is do-able. Any tips or recommendations will be appreciated.

Additional information

I've made an appointment with an attorney I found through an illinois attorney finder website. Thank you all for your advice!

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Brian Michael Radke

    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I agree with advice provided by attorney Malloy. In addition, you should at least sit down face to face with one (or a few) attorneys in person. Most lawyers will work with you to and may have ideas to help you come up with a retainer. See if any friends or family can loan you funds to get a lawyer. If there is a lot at stake, you may not be able to afford NOT HAVING A LAWYER. It could cost you far more in the long run if you about it by yourself.

    This response shall not be construed as specific legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship... more
  2. Conor Edmond Malloy

    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I see you're tagged as being in northbrook. If you want to learn about legal aid in the Cook County area, or get info about representing yourself, CARPLS is an option -

    Otherwise, you can try to shoot for finding a lawyer who can provide unbundled services if you can't afford a full scope attorney, or just handle some things on your own.

    If you go the legal aid route, you should start making calls ASAP. They are congested and it could take time to get an intake interview.

    This information on this post is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not... more
  3. Peggy Margaret Raddatz


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I doubt you will qualify for legal aid with owning more than one property (mortgages), three cars, and a decent income from your job. You have to either sell a car (s), some other property, take a loan against the property, borrow from a friend/relative, or cash in part of the 401K and pay the penalty. You really cannot expect lawyers to help you out representing you pro bono when you are not taking self help to the maximum yourself. You are living a lifestyle you cannot afford so change it.

  4. Todd Robert Warren

    Contributor Level 6


    Lawyer agrees


    Answered . This does not sound like a situation where you would qualify for legal aid services. Representing yourself can be difficult on many levels and is fraught with pitfalls that you might ultimately regret, particularly if your spouse has counsel who is guiding her. Divorce can be a complicated subject matter if you don't have a working knowledge of your rights. I would suggest a consultation with an attorney, which will cost you 1 hour at that lawyer's hourly rate, so you can get a little education regarding what you are dealing with.

Related Topics


Divorce is the process of formally ending a marriage. Divorces may be jointly agreed upon, resolved by negotiation, or decided in court.

Pro Se Divorce: Doing it Yourself

“Pro se” means to act as one’s own lawyer. While there are rare cases where it may be cheaper, a pro se divorce is usually not recommended.

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