Brandy* called Legal Aid about filing for divorce from her husband who is serving a three-year sentence on drug charges. She wanted to end the marriage so she could get a fresh start.
Legal Aid established a Pro Se Divorce Clinic in Lake County for couples who have uncomplicated cases. Brandy, an Ashtabula resident, was a perfect candidate for the clinic. She and her husband don’t own a home, and don’t have bills or accounts in both of their names. Pro bono attorney and member of the Lake County Bar Association Jim O’Leary was able to help her fill-out and file the paperwork. Brandy was so grateful for Legal Aid’s help navigating the forms and the courts; now, she can have a new beginning.
“We as attorneys need to be mindful that people need our help and may not be able to afford it,” says Mr. O’Leary. “From my perspective it was a lot of fun, I was amazed at how organized the entire clinic was.” He added that it was nice to see his colleagues at the bar working together for the good of the community. “Sometimes, the only time we see other attorneys is when we’re in court fighting.”
The Pro Se Divorce Clinics in Lake County began in 2013 thanks to the vision of Lake County Domestic Relations Judge Colleen Falkowski. Judge Falkowski worked with Legal Aid and the Lake County Bar Association to create a model that provides access to individuals who otherwise might not be able to get help from Legal Aid. Since 2013 – more than 200 people have been helped through the clinics, which assist participants with everything from proper court dress and behavior to filing their divorce papers pro se.
*Names have been changed to protect clients’ privacy. To g
et involved with the Pro Se Clinic – or any Legal Aid volunteer opportunity – visit www.lasclev.org/volunteer