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- 2012 - March - 19th -

Pro bono family law attorneys reach 300 in need in 2011 through clinics

by Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chairwoman

The Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Family Law Group Information Clinics increase pro bono opportunities for local attorneys. More importantly, the service they provide to people in need is significant and enables many more people who would otherwise be turned away to receive the legal help they need.

In 2011, the Family Law Group Information Clinics served more than 300 people with specific guidance and direction on their family law matters. There were a total of 25 clinics presented in 2011 averaging 12 participants per clinic.

With two private attorneys presenting the specific topic for that evening, this is very significant legal assistance for pro se litigants.

Clinics cover the following family law topics: dissolution of marriage, paternity/timeshare/custody, and child support modification. Each topic is presented monthly and all clinics are free of charge.

Clinics have been available in Duval County for a year and are coordinated by pro bono attorney Marla Buchanan.

In 2012, clinics in Clay County have begun thanks to the effort of pro bono attorney Lisa Dasher. Likewise, Nassau County has recently started clinics thanks to the effort of pro bono attorney Valerie Faltemier.

The Duval County Clinics are held at the Downtown JALA offices, while in Clay and Nassau they are held in the respective courthouses.

In 2011, the Family Law Unit of JALA received more than 7,500 requests for assistance with family law issues. With just four family law staff attorneys, the vast majority of callers must be referred to other resources including self-help brochures, social service agencies and the JALA group information clinics.

At the clinics, each participant receives a packet of family law forms for pro se filings. The clinics also provide information on where to access additional forms. Participants learn where to file, what information should be included in the documents, how to schedule a hearing and how to conduct oneself before the judge.

Presenters are provided with an outline specifying the topics that must be discussed.

The following pro bono attorneys have provided education and encouragement to pro se litigants by serving as presenters at one or more of the family law clinics during 2011: Marla Buchanan, Lisa Dasher, Valerie Faltemier, Rusty Mead, Jonathan Zisser, Patricia Kuendig, Ambre Goff, Amy Grass-Gilmore, Demere Mason, Maite Bisigni, Jodi Seitlin, Suzanne Bass, Sean Dare, Dulce Fazel, LaRae Hendrix, Paul Dick, Steve Leitman, Michael Youngs, Carl Green, Nancy Nowlis, Jade Rouzeau, Chris Wilson, Chandra Rogers and Julie Anna Rountree.

Attorneys interested in providing assistance and serving as presenters in a family law clinic are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org.

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