Our stories are about people who have no resources to hire an attorney. They have a legal issue that can involve basic rights, their limited income, their housing and their children. Without help they face trying to find the proper forms, following the correct procedures and often facing an attorney on the other side in court.
This client is a 27 year old disabled veteran who had lost his job. A collection agency was trying to garnish his veterans benefits for a credit card debt from over 10 years ago. The client said he had paid the debt with an electronic check. The client received court papers and was afraid of losing his limited income. He met with a volunteer attorney who explained that the collection agency could not garnish his veterans benefits and that the judgement obtained by the collection agency was improper. The volunteer attorney entered a motion to set aside the judgement, negotiated with the collection agency who dismissed all action before the hearing.
This client is a 37 year old woman from El Salvador. She was married and had two children, ages 11 and 9. Her marriage was “broken” and her husband had returned to El Salvador. She was very scared and knew only a little English. A friend found our program on the internet. The client met with a volunteer attorney who helped her fill out our questionnaire. The program then prepared all her papers. She sent the papers to her sister-in-law in El Salvador. Her husband would not sign them. The client then went to court by herself and got a default and later finished the divorce. She says she feels proud that she did it herself. She is now working in quality control and supporting herself and her two children.
This case involved a 34-year-old female and her three daughters, ages 11, 13 and 15. She seldom paid her rent on time and was involved with drugs. They were eventually evicted from their apartment and spent a couple of months “couch surfing” at friends, finally living out of their car. The children missed school. She received three tickets in one month for driving with a suspended license and was then arrested for shoplifting. She spent 5 days in jail. They finally found themselves at a local familiy shelter where she applied for and was referred to the CCVLP Homeless Court. At homeless court over $2,000 in fines that she had no way of paying, were converted to 194 hours of community service. She worked full time at the shelter and came in an hour early every day from December through June to complete the community service. She says that she now has a key position at the shelter because of the opportunity Homeless Court gave her.
This client is a 51-year-old male who is the unmarried parent of a 3-year-old daughter. After separation the child resided with the mother. The mother, represented by an attorney, filed for custody. The client filed a response on his own. The mother threatened that if he did not withdraw his response, she would never let him see his daughter. Our client stated he made many attempts to visit and remain a part of his daughter’s life after the separation, but the mother would deny him visits. A volunteer attorney recommended filing an ex parte order regarding the Christmas visitation, though she advised that the likelihood of receiving the order was slim. The CCVLP Program Coordinator printed documents and instructions for the client who completed them, filed and represented himself in court. He received his order for temporary visitation and got to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with his daughter. He told us it was one of the hardest things he has ever done, but it has shown him that he can do anything he sets his mind to.
This client came to our program shortly after getting out of prison. She had not had any contact with her daughter for some time. Her daughter’s father had moved with her daughter to another state. She was referred to us by the YWCA and didn’t know how to get her daughter back. She felt that she was a bad person and that no one would care about her or her feelings. She says she felt hopeless. She met with a volunteer attorney who listened to her and helped her prepare a parenting plan and declarations. She went to court by herself and was able to get visitation every weekend and one day during the week. While this wasn’t quite what she wanted, she says the experience gave her hope and confidence.
This case involved parties in a 17 year marriage. The husband was represented by an attorney. The client agreed to an Order of Child Support and a Parenting Plan before seeing our volunteer attorney. They have a home worth $195,000 with two mortgages on it. The husband wanted the home to be sold, the wife to pay both mortgages and the equity to be given to the husband. With the help of the volunteer attorney, the client was able to go to the settlement conference and have the child support increased to include spousal maintenance, reduce the amount the wife owed in the judgement on the home and the husband to pay the second mortgage. The client and two children were able to keep the home.
Our Homeless Court success story is a 32 year old man who was living in the Open House Ministries shelter with his 9 year old daughter and 6 year old son. This client became homeless after alcohol took over his life. He decided to turn his life around and went into treatment for the alcoholism. He entered Homeless Court with close to $2,000 in outstanding fines. He did 178 hours of community service to work off his fines. As a result he got his driver's license back. He is now living in an apartment with his children and going to Clark College studying addiction counseling. He says Homeless Court showed him that people believed in him and gave him a sense of accomplishment.