1. Voluntary mediation.
“Voluntary” implies that your partner is willing to negotiate in good faith. Voluntary mediation is a more flexible and less costly route than mandatory court-ordered mediation or an attorney-facilitated process.
A mediator (someone trained to be impartial) will guide you and your partner through decisions about parenting time, custody, child support, retirement/pensions, health insurance, housing, etc. The mediator will record your mutual decisions in a document -- the Memorandum of Understanding.
Before signing the memorandum, hire your own personal attorney to look it over to ensure that you have not compromised in ways that put you or your children at risk.
The nonprofit Dispute Resolution Center offers affordable mediation in Washtenaw and Livingston Counties.
2. Deferred payment possibilities
Retainer. Most attorneys require an initial payment that covers the time it takes to familiarize themselves with the details of your case and get started on paperwork.
Payment plan. Ask friends and family if they have a recommendation of a trustworthy family law attorney who can work with you on a payment plan.
Contingency. You may be able to find an attorney who agrees to take your case in exchange for a share of the post-divorce settlement. If you have few assets, this is unlikely.