So you’re a lifelong resident of Flagler County who’s never been in trouble a day in your life. You’re going your merry way one day when – out of the blue – you find yourself needing the services of a lawyer. It could be a car accident, a conflict at work, or a dispute with a landlord. Or maybe one day your wife announces she’s filing a divorce. It’s sad and scary and unfortunate, but it happens every day. But suppose you can’t afford a Flagler County lawyer? Should you bone up on the law and try to represent yourself? What are your options? Your first point of action may be to seek legal aid.
Legal aid is not unlike a Flagler County medical clinic that serves the uninsured or low-income neighborhoods. Just as doctors at such clinics treat any patient who needs care, regardless of income, legal aid groups offer legal counsel and representation to individuals who cannot afford substantial lawyer‘s fees. Lawyers who work in this capacity may represent their clients in divorce, custody, or child abuse cases. The legal aid model varies; some law firms retain lawyers specifically to perform pro bono work alongside their regular caseload. Other firms, funded by the federal government, exist solely to provide legal representation to low-income clients. Another model, the legal aid clinic, comprises lawyers who offer legal services as a form of volunteer work.
Legal aid is available to low-income individuals in Flagler County and exists in every state in the U.S. Individual requirements may vary, but typically anyone whose income level is less than 125 percent of the poverty line qualifies. Other individuals who qualify for legal aid can include seniors over the age of 60 (depending on the issue) and Medicaid beneficiaries. Low-income military personnel, persons with disabilities, and victims of domestic violence are also eligible.
If you can’t afford a Flagler County lawyer, legal aid may seem like a good option. The problem is that the waiting list to get into a legal clinic or consult with a legal aid attorney can be long. The demand is very great, and there simply isn’t enough funding to support a vast network of legal aid resources. And then there’s the problem of people who aren’t quite poor enough to meet the requirements for legal aid but for whom attorney’s fees are still too high. But if you find yourself facing a sticky legal situation in Flagler County without the means to hire a lawyer, if legal aid isn’t an option, ask the law firm you’re considering whether they may be able to negotiate payment in terms you can manage.