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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 25, 201312:00 PM EST

Pro bono family law attorneys helped more than 450 in 2012

by: Kathy Para

In 2012 the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Family Law Group Information Clinics helped more people than ever before, providing legal assistance and advice to those in need all across the 4th Circuit.

The organization's family law clinics provide local attorneys with worthwhile pro bono opportunities and provide legal services to those who would otherwise be turned away.

Attendance numbers climbed from 311 in 2011 to more than 450 in 2012, highlighting the growing need for family-law guidance in the 4th Circuit.

Attorneys are able to provide their expertise free of charge, with two private attorneys leading each clinic.

Each topic is presented monthly and clinics cover the topics of dissolution of marriage, paternity/timeshare/custody and child-support modification.

The Dissolution of Marriage clinic had the highest attendance in 2012, with 237 participants.

Clinics in Duval have been offered since 2011, while clinics in Clay and Nassau counties have just ended their first year, thanks to attorneys Lisa Dasher and Valerie Faltemier.

Duval clinics are held at the Downtown legal aid offices, while Clay and Nassau clinics are held at the Clay County Public Library and in the Nassau County Courthouse.

In addition to the clinics offered in the 4th Circuit, the St. Johns County office of legal aid also offers pro bono assistance to pro se family law litigants.

Each year, JALA receives thousands of family law requests and questions. Staff and pro bono attorneys are not able to represent all meritorious matters.

The family law group information clinics provide education, empowerment and encouragement to those who will resolve their matters pro se. The clinics provide each participant with a packet that includes pro se forms, information on how to receive additional forms and guidance on where and how to file a case. The clinics give local attorneys a chance to provide legal guidance to those who would not otherwise receive it and to participate in a meaningful pro bono opportunity.

Sincere thanks are extended to Marla Buchanan, Valerie Faltemier, Lisa Dasher, Joy Owenby and Ashley Myers, who have donated their time to schedule and organize these clinics.

Deep appreciation also is expressed to Rusty Mead, Jonathan Zisser, Lisa Dasher, Paul Dick, Kevin Hemphill, Gary Luke, Julie Anna Rountree, Christian Winicki, Rosa Price, Suzanne Quinonez, Amber Hines, Whitney Lonker, Valerie Faltemier, Lucreita Becude, Chanda Rogers, Stacey Myers, Geraldine Hartin, David Trotti and Susannah Collins, who all served as presenters at the clinics.

Florida Coastal School of Law students Shancey Battle, Stephanie Brito, Natacha Ciezki, Brianna Conway, Jessica DaSilva, Victoria Gammill, Tiara Jackson, Megan Kelley, Teri Mai, Erin McLean, Adam Sundheim, Kristen Warren, Elisabeth Whitmire, and Minal Acharya served as family law clinic assistants and their help also contributed to the success of the clinics.

The 2013 Family Law Clinic schedulers and organizers Valerie Faltemier, Lisa Dasher, Joy Owenby and Ashley Myers are currently at work, and a very special thanks to them for trying to make this year's topics more far-reaching than last year's event.

For information on pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Circuit and beyond, contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected].

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