HelpMELaw: Divorce and parental rights

Divorce and the sharing of parental rights are serious matters. For most people, this is a difficult, stressful time. In this guide, we try to explain and simplify the court process for you. We hope that this will help you feel more confident about dealing with the legal system. You can get through this. Begin here and take one step at a time.

Should I get a lawyer?

We provide this information for low-income people who cannot afford to hire lawyers. If you can afford the cost, we advise you to get a lawyer. But, if you cannot afford one, here are some guidelines.

You should try to get a lawyer if your divorce is complicated by:

• property issues such as pensions or real estate
• arguments over children
• domestic violence, or
• other difficult problems.
You may want to try to do it yourself if:

• you and your spouse have agreed on the terms of the divorce,
• you do not feel that your spouse is a threat, and
• you have little property or debts, which you can divide fairly.
If you think you need a lawyer and cannot afford one, call the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP): 1-800-442-4293. They may be able to refer you to a free lawyer for some or all of your case. They cannot find a free lawyer for everyone who calls.

Other important tips for using this guide:

• If you are not married but have children, you can still use this information.
• Sometimes lawyers and Judges speak in “legalese.” If you come across a linked word that you don’t understand, click on it. This will take you to the Glossary and a plain English meaning for the
word. (To get back to where you were reading, click on “Back” at the
upper left-hand corner of your screen.)
• Call Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you need help with:
• Getting food or shelter
• Paying for medical care
• Public benefits
• Housing issues
• Escaping domestic violence
• If you have more questions about how to do your own divorce or need help with filling out the court forms, call the statewide “Helpline:”
Volunteer Lawyers Project
Helpline: 1-800-442-4293

– Courtesy of Help ME Law.

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