Divorce and the Assigned Counsel Program

Legal Lifelines

Divorce and the Assigned Counsel Program

 The Legal Aid Society may be able to help you get a divorce lawyer through our Assigned Counsel Program. This service is only available for low income individuals who live in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. The Legal Aid Society staff does not represent in your divorce. The attorney that you are assigned through The Assigned Counsel Program (Court) represents you in your divorce.


How does the program work?

The Legal Aid Society assists you by filing a Motion with the Court requesting that a private attorney be assigned to represent you in your Divorce case. If the Court grants your request, this private attorney will represent you in the divorce proceedings.


How much does it cost?

There is NO CHARGE for this service if you are eligible for this program. You are eligible for the program if:

  1. You meet the income and asset eligibility guidelines established by the Court.
  2. NYS has jurisdiction to hear your divorce.
  3. You have a good reason (a ground) under New York State law to get a divorce.

How do I know if I am financially eligible for the program?

 You are eligible if your household income and assets meet the Legal Aid Society’s income and asset eligibility guidelines.   Legal Aid will determine if you are financially eligible. Also, the Court will require you to submit proof of your income.


How do I apply for this program?

 You call Legal Aid and ask for help with a divorce. This is called an intake and it is on certain days. Intake for this program is normally on the third Thursday of the month. If you call and there is no intake, the intake staff will let you know when to call. The intake number is 462-6765.   The toll free number is 1-800- 462-2922.

You will be asked to do the following to be considered for this program:

  1. You must complete a divorce questionnaire, sign a retainer and application for referral and return them to us.
  2. You must provide proof of your gross (before taxes) monthly income.       Income can be employment, Social Security, SSI disability, unemployment, worker’s compensation, retirement, pension, dividends, welfare/public assistance, child support, alimony or money provided by someone to you. Proof of income may be copies of your pay stubs, benefit or award letters, statements or ledgers.   If you have no income, a letter from the person who is supporting you detailing the amount and type of support you are receiving must be provided.
  3. If you have them, you should also provide copies of all child support and custody orders for any children in common with your spouse. Also provide copies of all orders of protection.


What happens after I send the information back to Legal Aid?

 Your papers are reviewed by a member of the ACP staff. Once all the needed information is received, we will let you know if you are accepted into the Assigned Counsel Program. If you are accepted, we will let you know and invite you to a clinic to prepare paperwork to send to the Court asking for a free attorney to represent in your divorce. You must attend a clinic to go through the Assigned Counsel Program. The clinic will take place at The Legal Aid Society located at 55 Colvin Avenue, Albany, New York. The Legal Aid Staff will help you complete the paperwork. Once you attend the clinic, Legal Aid Staff will process your paperwork with the Court.


How long does this process take?

 It usually takes 2 to 3 months to get an attorney assigned to a case, although it occasionally takes longer.   The County Attorney also reviews your request and may oppose (contest) it, if it is felt that you are not financially eligible.

It is important to remember that your request for an attorney is the first step in this process. It does not start your divorce action. Your divorce will not begin until after you are assigned an attorney.


How will I know the name of the attorney who is assigned to help me?

 When the Judge signs the Order assigning an attorney to your case, a copy of this Order is sent to Legal Aid. We will then notify you in writing of the name and address of your attorney. Once you have this information, you can call your attorney to start your divorce. Legal Aid will also notify your attorney that he or she has been assigned to your case.


Once I have an attorney, how long does my divorce take?

 The length of your divorce will depend on your facts. Your attorney will have a better idea on how long it may take once he or she meets with you.

This Lifeline contains general information, and does not constitute individual legal advice about your situation. You should consult with an attorney for individual legal advice about your situation and to find out how this information applies to your situation. To see if you qualify for free legal services, call the Legal Aid office nearest you.