The circumstances where a party could get a free divorce without having to pay filing fees are limited.  To be able to file a divorce or other legal proceeding without paying a fee, the filing person would have to ask the court to find that they are in forma pauperis.

In forma pauperis is a legal term derived from the Latin phrase “in the form of a pauper.” Someone who is without the funds to pursue the normal costs of a lawsuit.  In the United States, the IFP designation is given by both state and federal courts to someone who is without the funds to pursue the normal costs of a lawsuit or a criminal defense. Upon the court’s granting of this status, the person is entitled to waiver of normal costs and/or appointment of counsel (but seldom in other than a criminal case).  The status is usually granted by a judge without a hearing and entitles the person to a waiver of normal costs, and sometimes in criminal cases the appointment of counsel.  While court imposed costs such as filing fees are waived, the litigant is still responsible for others costs incurred in bringing the action such as deposition and witness fees.  A court is more likely to allow in forma pauperis status for issues relating to custody and child or spousal support than they are for just the divorce itself.

Courts do make it easier for litigants to file Pro Se (without counsel).  They provide forms that parties in domestic matters can fill out and file on their own.  These forms can be downloaded on line or picked up at the court clerk’s office.  The forms are fill-in-the-blank and are geared toward the unrepresented litigant.  Some jurisdictions provide limited legal counsel in these situations by having members of the bar assist parties with filling out the forms or reviewing them to make sure they have been filed out correctly.

Other possible sources of free divorce would be legal aid (they do not usually represent parties in divorce but may have paralegals or seminars to assist you with the paperwork) or other social agencies that provide legal services to the clientele they serve.


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