Everyone dreams of finding their happily ever after. But in reality, not everyone gets to be lucky enough to have it. According to the world population review, with 50% of marriages ending in divorce in 2021 alone, America is the sixth country with the highest divorce rate in the world. As reported on the survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, divorce in the country is usually caused by incompatibility, infidelity, and financial complications, with 43%, 28%, and 22% of respondents stating respectively.
But as almost everyone knows, divorce can be a tough process both emotionally and financially. Even with the statistics as high as the ones provided, there is still a chance that most people suffering from severe marital problems don’t do anything about it due to financial difficulties. This is where legal aid comes in.
What is legal aid?
Civil Legal Aid is a form of legal assistance that is freely accessible to those of low and middle income. It covers legal aid for civil cases that revolve around a person’s basic needs like housing, government benefits, employment, and education, among many other services.
Why isn’t legal aid more known to people?
As commonly depicted in popular culture and media, legal aid in criminal cases is quite often used. However, since people tend to think that civil cases have less legal implications and can be very financially exhausting, people without the means to fight possibly long civil cases tend to settle their matters privately. But as what you should and what you will learn here, the justice system should work regardless of how much money you earn.
What is the maximum income required to qualify for legal aid in the U.S.?
The Legal Services Corporation, a federally funded corporation that caters and funds free legal services nationwide, deems an individual with a household income below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level eligible for legal aid services. That means you are qualified if you have a total income below $27,450 per annum for a household of three people. The total amount of annual income required increases by $5,675 for each additional family member.
How long does it take for legal aid to be approved?
The duration it would take for your legal aid request to be approved varies depending on the urgency of the case and the availability of manpower. It usually ranges from five business days to four business weeks, depending on the case’s complexity. You can also ask the solicitor to help you file an emergency written application if the situation is dire.
What can you do if your request has been rejected?
If the request for legal aid has been refused, you have 22 business days starting from the date on the notice of refusal to file for a review. The limit can exceed up to 52 days if you’re in a hospital or jail.
In your request for a review of your legal aid application, you must include your name, client number, current contact details, and the reasons for your request.
How does it work with divorce?
Getting capable divorce lawyers is vital to keeping you mentally and emotionally healthy during such a predicament. And keeping your mental health safe is part of your basic rights. Civil legal aid can help with divorce since family law is one of the main parts of its core. This is most especially true if there is domestic violence involved in the case.
If domestic violence is involved, legal aid can help you with the following:
- Protective order — It is almost the same as the commonly known restraining order, except that protective orders are placed if the victim has a close relationship with the abuser. It can be a marital relationship or as long as they have lived together or have had a sexual relationship for 90 days at the minimum within the current or the past year. This can also be used filed if a victim is blood-related or is connected with the abuser through an adoption.
- Child custody order — Since the children are of equal if not more importance during a divorce, a child custody order is a way to ensure the safety of a minor by deciding which party is more fit to have custody of the child as mandated by the court.
- Child support — Much like custody, court-ordered payments to support minor children of a divorced parent can also be achieved through free legal services. This covers everything from application to apprehension of the parent who has failed to provide the legally mandated amount.
- Adoption and guardianship — In some divorce cases, both parties might be deemed ineligible to parent a child. When this happens, adoption and guardianship from the next of kin or even a close friend can be requested.
There are other services that legal aid provides. Anyone can get access to free legal advice without the need for representation through toll-free telephone services and online avenues. There are also self-help education services being offered. But most importantly, if you are suffering from domestic violence, may it be physical or emotional abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) as soon as possible.