There are a lot of options available. The most important is to determine if you cannot hire a lawyer or if you don’t want to hire a lawyer. Many smaller firms provide for various payment options or structures for your case. Consider if you can pay a certain amount each month, or if you just want a lawyer to attend a mediation with you. Most attorneys, depending on your type of case (not bankruptcy), will accept credit cards. There are options, if you want to make it work.
If there is no way to make it work, and you cannot hire a lawyer, know that the courts will treat you as if you were a lawyer, so you need to be up to speed on what you need to know.
CLERK’S WEBSITE: Believe it or not, the website for the Clerk of Court for the county your case is in can be a big help. In Pinellas County, Florida, our clerk’s website includes information for the Clerk’s Self-Help Center and a link to forms for a variety of civil and family law cases. https://www.mypinellasclerk.org/Self-Help
COURT’S WEBSITE: Also, there is often a separate website for the Court system for the county your case is in. In Pinellas County, Florida, the court website for the Sixth Judicial Circuit provides information on representing yourself in court, including forms, additional resources, frequently asked questions, and more. http://www.jud6.org/GeneralPublic/RepresentingYourselfInCourt.html
FORMS: Many forms can be found online.
- **Note: Forms are only a starting point. You should make sure to include the specifics to your case.
- **Note: Make sure your forms come from a reputable source, such as the Clerk’s website or the Court’s website.
- Bonus – the Florida Family Law Forms online also have instruction pages available that explain to you what the form is for and how to complete it.
LEGAL AID SOCIETIES: Most towns have a legal aid societies. Each of them usually handle their own types of cases – some handle immigration, some do landlord/tenant work, some help with bankruptcy. Find the legal aid society in your area and see if they handle the type of case you seek help with.
- **Note: In order to get assistance from a Legal Aid Society, often your income must not exceed 125% of the national poverty line, which is currently set at $16,910 for a 2-person household and $25,750 for a 4-person household.
VOLUNTEER LAWYER PROJECT/PRO BONO PROJECT/FREE LEGAL WORKSHOPS: A local bar association (a club for lawyers) often hosts a volunteer lawyer project, or a pro bono project, or a free legal workshop to assist individuals with their cases. Most of the time these events are free and are done year-round.
LAW CLINICS: If you have a law school in your area, the local law school may provide a free legal clinic where law students provide legal help. The law students are supervised by attorneys and law professors and receive class credit for their legal help.