In reality, it's very difficult to get an attorney to take on a case for free - although most of us are in this profession to help people, we cannot survive without payment. If you are unrepresented because of financial strain, and your ex has a greater income, then consider a request that your ex pay for an attorney for you based on Family Code section 2030 (need and ability to pay).
It is virtually impossible to get "pro bono" representation for a litigated family law case. In such cases the fees cannot be controlled, and almost 100% if the time the final bill is never paid. (Pro bono work... but not chosen.)
It is theoretically possible to get (some of) your fees paid in such a case by the party with more funds. (Usually Husband.) Of course, this upsets Husband and increases the litigation..and the fees.
I have added links to several articles which explain the harm of litigating in family law. It may SEEM that you mist-- but given that it is 100% certain you will NOT be pleased with any litigated outcome, perhaps you can, with some limited assistance, decide there are some ways to avoid litigation and reach a result that you can live with -over the long haul...and in which YOU have some actual say in the outcome.
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In addition to asking the court to order your ex to help pay for your attorney's fees, I recommend contacting the local bar associations. Many of them have lawyers on their panel that will accept "limited means" clients, after first being evaluated by the bar association for ability to pay.
I can be reached at 714-442-1522 if you have further questions. Before accepting any answer as a final answer, you should have your case reviewed by an attorney. No attorney on Avvo has read your paperwork and therefore cannot give a completely valid answer suited to your case.
As stated by other Counsel, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find an attorney that is taking pro bono cases in this financial environment. Also as cited above, you may be able to get a Court to order the other side to pay some part of your attorney fees under Ca. Fam. Code Section 2030 (there is also a similar provision under the UPA for parties that were not married). If you have any recent Income and Expense Declarations that were completed by the other side, take a close look at them and the attached proof of income. Look closely at the section dealing with liquid assets (money in savings and checking accounts, investments, etc.) Also look for a copy of the other sides Schedule of Assets and Debts (If this is a dissolution and disclosures have been done). You can make a much stronger argument for the other side to pay all or a portion of your attorney fees when you can not only point out a disparity in monthly income, but also to disproportionate liquid assets available to the other side from which such attorney fees could be paid. If there have been no exchanges of documents yet in the case, an Income and Expense Declaration would have to be filed by each side in their papers moving for or responding to the request.
If you can't afford an attorney, you might hire an attorney JUST for the purpose of writing your papers for you and helping you serve them, and then go to court by yourself. Obviously, this is much cheaper. This is often a good option; First; eighty percent of the time, judges decide matters BEFORE the hearing based on what each side has written in their pleadings (and on what the mediator says in custody cases.) So a concise, well written pleading by a lawyer, supported by proper evidence will GREATLY increase your chances of success in court; Second; most hearings last only 15 - 20 minutes. that's 5 minutes for the other side to talk, 5 minutes for you to talk and 5 minutes for the judge to talk. Unrepresented litigants tend to get muddled on what to say in such short time, and ramble unfocused, and talk about everything EXCEPT what is relevant that they should be talking about. Attorneys know what judges need to hear. A well written pleading gets your point of view to the judge BEFORE the hearing so, even if you get muddled while speaking, the judge still knows what you are trying to say. Do not misunderstand me; it's preferable to have an attorney write your pleadings AND also to appear. But if you can only afford thing, having an attorney write your pleadings and serve them is more important than having an attorney with you in court because, if you haven't filed a proper pleading with the right evidence to support it, or if you didn't properly serve it, then it's too late; an attorney can't fix these problems at court.
Thomas Neil is an attorney, with 20 years experience, representing clients in the Bay area, Sacramento, and surrounding counties. Or, if you cannot afford representation then Mr. Neil can write you the forms and declaration you need, help you serve them, tell you what to say and you can go to court by yourself. A well written declaration by an attorney, supported by proper evidence, GREATLY increases your chances of success in court. Our office takes credit cards.
Marin Law Office of Thomas A Neil
1000 Fourth Street, Ste. 800
San Rafael, CA 94901
You may want to contact the California Bar Association and see if they have any programs where attorney's agree to provide low cost to no cost help. I know in Arizona we have a program called the modest means program that provides these types of services to Arizona Residents.
This response is not intended to create an attorney client relationship, nor is it given as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always consult with a licensed attorney regarding the specifics of your particular case.