The Basics

Should I get a lawyer?

We provide this information for low-income people who cannot afford to hire lawyers. We recommend that you consult a lawyer if you can afford one.

Also, you should try to get a lawyer if your divorce involves:

  • Property issues, such as pensions or real estate
  • Major disagreements about your children, or
  • Complicated child support calculations

You may want to try to do it yourself if:

  • You and the other parent agree on all the legal issues,
  • You do not feel that the other parent is a threat, and
  • You have little property and few debts, which you can divide fairly

If you are in a relationship with domestic violence, we recommend that you contact your local domestic violence program: 1-866-83-4HELP(44357).

The Maine State Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service 1-800-860-1460 helps people find lawyers. They charge a small referral fee. As you probably know, "full representation" for a divorce can be expensive. But some lawyers will provide "limited help" for a smaller fee. Also, sometimes a lawyer may take your case based on the possibility that the court will order your spouse to pay your lawyer's fee, assuming your spouse has the ability to pay. 

Also, many courts offer Courthouse Assistance Projects. Lawyers and other trained volunteers can help you with filling out the forms and answering other questions you may have. This is not the same as having your own lawyer from start to finish, but it can help people with low incomes get through the beginning steps. 

How long will my court case take?

Divorce: You cannot get divorced until at least 60 days have passed after the complaint for divorce is served (delivered to the other spouse). if you and your spouse agree on all or most of the issues, your case could be over in 60 days. If you disagree and the issues are complicated, your case could take much longer.

Unmarried Parents/Parental Rights and Responsibilities: if you and the other parent agree on all or most of the issues, you could finish your case during your first court appearance. If you disagree and the issues are complicated, your case will take longer.

How much will it cost?

Here are some of the costs, which are subject to change:

Summons form: $5

Filing fee: $120

Service fee: $8-$50(It varies depending on which method of service you use)

Mediation fee: $80 (per party; $160 total for two mediation sessions)

You can ask the court to waive the fees if you have a low income and cannot afford them. Ask the clerk for an "Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees" and an "Indigency Affidavit." Or get these fee waiver forms online. Check all the boxes near the top of the fee waiver form to show that you need all costs waived. On the affidavit, list all of your income and expenses. If you receive TANF, SSI, or General Assistance, the court should waive the fees. If your income is higher, the court will look at your income and expenses to decide whether you qualify for a waiver.