I need money for a divorce attorney. Ideas?
June 6, 2016 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. Yay. Except... my wife moved out four months ago, leaving me financially destitute and destabilizing my existence. I need to hire a divorce attorney to protect my rights, but don't know where to get the money. Maybe you are clever enough to help.

My wife and I have technically been married for 18 years, as of today. We have five kids together, ranging in age from 4 up to 15. We met at a conservative religious college and both agreed never to get divorced, so life seemed pretty good. There was stress, but not much more than any other couple I know goes through.

But on January 3 - five months ago - my wife suddenly told me that she didn't love me "like a husband" anymore and was going to move in with her parents. On February 10 she moved out, taking the kids with her, and I was forced to move into a small (yet still expensive!) two-bedroom apartment. I have all five kids there with me on the weekends, with four daughters sharing a room and my son sleeping on the couch.

It sucks. I went from love and stability to loneliness and chaos. My wife makes more money than I do, I pay for our kids' health insurance, and she is currently living rent-and-bill free, while I spend all of my paychecks on rent and bills.

She has the upper hand, financially speaking, and is filling out paperwork for a divorce. I am barely making ends meet (even overdrafting sometimes) and am afraid of what this means for my own attorney.

I qualified for the Modest Means Program at the Oregon bar, so my attorney will be at a lower rate, but even then I am still way short. I set up a GoFundMe account and asked friends and family to donate and was able to raise enough money for a retainer and five hours worth of work, but I assume a divorce will take considerably more than that.

My work doesn't offer overtime or bonuses, and tax refund season is a long way off. What are some other ways I can raise money to pay my attorney? I don't have much worth selling (my 13-year-old accidentally broke my big TV two weeks ago). I live in the Portland area and I have weeknights free, but have five kids to watch on the weekends.

Selling plasma wouldn't add up quickly enough. Any other good ideas for quick(ish) fundraising?
posted by tacodave to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
An old friend of mine managed to keep the cost of her divorce attorney down by doing a bunch of the legal work herself, in close coordination with the attorney. Additionally, some family law attorneys may be willing to set up payment plans and so forth: they understand that not everyone is financially prepared for divorce, and are willing to get creative.
posted by suelac at 4:00 PM on June 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

Sent you a MeMail.
posted by Beti at 4:01 PM on June 6, 2016

Why do you need an attorney? Are their assets contested between you and your wife? Is your parenting schedule or rights contested?

Otherwise you should mediate. Ask your wife to mediate. If she has any savings left from the marriage, ask the mediator that those be applied to the fee. YOU SHOULD TRY TO AVOID THE LAWYERS. If you are 75% of the way to agreeing on the kids and assets, you should mediate. The only time you should use a divorce lawyer as a middle class person is if one person is being totally unreasonable.

That being said, get a consultation with a lawyer. Some states allow Dads lots of rights (like kids half the time, child support, other things) and you can find that out in a free hour meeting with a lawyer (if your state is one of those states) and then ask for those things in mediation. Or maybe a lawyer thinks your marriage assets or wife can pay for your attorney.
posted by Kalmya at 5:21 PM on June 6, 2016 [12 favorites]

I agree with Kalmya. Ask for mediation. Her lawyer could do it, on her dime. Your youngest is four years old, you will be dealing with this woman for at least 16 more years. Keep things as friendly as possible, even if it means that you lose your assets. Have you asked your minister to step in? Perhaps he would be willing to help with mediation.

I don't understand what has happened to the marital house. If she is living with her parents, why are you in an apartment?
posted by myselfasme at 5:30 PM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I suggest meeting witha lawyer to get information. I have a lawyer, but I only use the lawyer to get information and to review documents related to separation/divorce/custody. My lawyer is awesome at coaching me to do things myself. I've spent about $1500 in the past 8 years. That's it. We've done a bit of mediation - about $300 worth. That's it.

I am worried about why she took the kids with her, why the marital home is apparently abandoned by both parties, and why you have such a limited access schedule. Is there more to the story? Are you just unaware of your rights? Maybe you're happy with this set up? It would be helpful to know more about how this arrangement came to be.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:51 PM on June 6, 2016

Also you should ask the lawyer about spousal support and child support. If your wife makes more money than you do, you may qualify for support. You might also want to look at how much access time you have as it might affect how much you receive/contribute.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:52 PM on June 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

You probably have rights to significant marital assets. You may have rights to child support or spousal maintenance. You need a lawyer to protect your interests. You can beg, borrow, or steal (ok not steal) the money to pay for the lawyer and get that money back many times over in what it will save you.
posted by bq at 6:28 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could you work weeknights at a restaurant or delivering pizza?
posted by salvia at 6:47 PM on June 6, 2016

If she is the primary earner, ask the court to have her pay for it or use joint assets.
posted by AugustWest at 7:17 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bedrockdivorce.com seems to be written for women, but really the advice on the site and in the books is gender neutral. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by Sophont at 7:20 PM on June 6, 2016

Based on what several of my family who have gone through divorce have said, you might have legitimate claim to portions of your spouse's 401k or other investment/retirement accounts.
posted by yesster at 7:55 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I volunteer regularly at free legal clinics where I field questions from people who are considering or beginning divorce, and I often counsel those people—whose situations may be markedly different from your own, which is apparently situated in Oregon where I'm not licensed to practice law—that they don't need to hire a lawyer.

If they could afford to hire a lawyer, then I would explain that lawyers charge for every six minutes of their time. So if a client can write down facts and assemble records, and organize all of that before coming to the lawyer's office so that the lawyer doesn't have to do it, then the lawyer may charge considerably less.

This comment should not be construed as discouraging you from seeking legal counsel, which you are apparently doing through your local bar association. You should definitely continue with that plan. But if I were walking into a situation with five hours' of attorney time in my pocket, I might breathe easier and feel more confident knowing that other people make do with zero hours of attorney time available to them.
posted by cribcage at 8:18 PM on June 6, 2016

You can do mediation AND have a lawyer.
posted by jbenben at 11:20 PM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, I think there is more to this story. What happened to your joint home?

As to finding yourself with a single income and not enough money to make ends meet for your family - plenty of women have found themselves in your situation, man. Get a second job. Call center, fast food, big box stores. I've worked all three when I couldn't make ends meet with a full time gig. It's not for forever.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2016

Hi. Here's an update.

We had a house several years ago, but the bank foreclosed on in it during the mortgage meltdown. For the past five years we rented a house. She moved out two weeks before our lease was to renew, and I couldn't afford a place that big on my own income.

We have no assets, other than our cars and our retirement accounts. We have debt. My goal is to work out a parenting plan with her and bring that to our attorneys, then let a mediator hash out the distribution of assets and debt.

I think my plan is solid - I just need to find a good way to pay the attorney.
posted by tacodave at 10:06 AM on June 7, 2016

As others have said, if you’re not fighting, you don’t need an attorney. Meet with her and discuss each of your expectations regarding finances and custody. If you want dramatically different things, then yeah, you probably need to get someone. But you haven’t mentioned that so far.

If you do need a lawyer, read up on Oregon laws so you’ll know what to expect to make your meeting time efficient. Friends paid for them via loans from family, credit cards, selling their car, moving in with family, or taking second jobs. But many of us decided that the cost wasn’t worth it, and for the sake of the kids, let our exes get more than their fair share rather than give the money to lawyers instead.

Unfortunately, lifestyles usually do take a big dive post-divorce. I’m sorry that you and your children are having to live with that.
posted by metasarah at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2016

My last update for now: I was served papers yesterday, so this is happening.

My GoFundMe account has helped with my upcoming legal fees, but I'm still struggling week-to-week. Thanks to advice on here, I've joined a freelance writing site to make some extra cash. And a co-worker showed me a legitimate "mystery shopping" website that will bring in a bit more.

Thanks, everyone, for the advice.
posted by tacodave at 4:26 PM on July 7, 2016

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