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How to request an attorney or attorney's fees

Are you in the middle of a divorce or custody dispute? No money to hire a lawyer? There are three possible ways to get an attorney depending on your situation.

Background

Many times, people who are sued for divorce or custody, or people who want to sue for divorce or custody, find themselves without money to pay a lawyer to represent them.

Private attorneys are often unwilling to take on cases without some money, called a retainer, up front. Many people choose to handle their divorce or custody dispute without an attorney, but for those who feel that their case involves complicated issues they are not able to handle on their own, there are three options:

  • Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) both provide free legal representation in divorce and custody disputes to people who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. 
    If you believe you would qualify for assistance, you will need to contact your local ALSC or ANDVSA office to request an application. ALSC and ANDVSA cannot help everyone, and may be unable to take your case because you exceed the financial eligibility guidelines, do not meet other program requirements, or there are simply not enough staff and resources available when you apply.

  • If you have tried to get assistance from private attorneys with no success, and Legal Services can't help because you have an interest in substantial shared assets, you may request attorney's fees from the opposing party. 

    Alaska Statute 25.24.140 authorizes the Court to issue many temporary orders. Under this statute, the court may order your partner to pay you an amount sufficient to retain a private attorney, if it finds that such an order would be fair. The court would probably look to your parnter's ability to pay and your own financial circumstances before reaching its decision. The Court will not, for example, order your former partner to provide you with funds for a private attorney if they cannot afford to hire an attorney of their own. 

    If you believe your partner has the ability to assist you financially, you will need to file a Motion for Interim Relief, requesting the attorney's fees, and explaining why you believe it would be fair for them to assist you.

  • If your former partner has already retained an attorney from ALSC or ANDVSA, even if you financially qualify for their services, neither agency will be able to assist you due to a conflict of interest. In these circsumstances, if custody or visitation of children is at issue, you may request the the Court provide you with an Appointed Attorney. 
    Flores v. Flores, 598 P.2d 893 (Alaska 1979), In the Matter of Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, No. 6620, slip op. (Alaska Dec. 2, 2011)), AS 44.21.410(a)(4) and Administrative Rule 12(c)(2) provide for attorney appointment in this situation. 
    This option is only available in custody or divorce with custody cases. If you do not have minor children at issue in your divorce, you will not qualify for an appointed attorney, even if your former spouse is represented by ALSC or ANDVSA.

Link to Motion for Interim Orders: www.courts.alaska.gov

Link to Alaska Legal Services Corporation Application: www.alsc-law.org

Motion for Flores Appointed Counsel

Last Review and Update: Sep 17, 2004