LEGAL AID IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES – Legal aid in domestic violence cases is a mandatory option.
It disturbed me greatly to recently read a report stating that legal aid may be drastically cut in our State of Florida. According to this report, if certain proposed cuts are approved, the ratio would become one legal aid attorney for every 10,700 poor persons in Florida. The effect that could have on the number of domestic violence cases is unthinkable, and unacceptable. Such a cutback is incomprehensible, and the ramifications could put lives on the line.
Many female victims of intimate partner violence find themselves in a situation of financial abuse. Their partner either scrutinizes every dime they spend, or they cut off all income, creating a situation of total financial dependency. Without money to seek legal aid in domestic violence cases, victims will be trapped in abusive situations, possibly left in a life-threatening environment.
I applaud each and every attorney who contributes pro bono work on domestic violence cases. It may not be a popular alternative, but simply a suggestion from yours truly: Perhaps a big dent could be put in the deficit of legal aid for domestic violence cases if each State’s Bar Association required its members to take at least one pro bono case a year for an indigent or financially incapable client.
Seeing those who are in dire need of legal representation without funds to afford it should be a real eye opener. Reaching out, offering assistance and support to victims, should bring a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It feels good to help meet a need of your fellow man (or woman), with no strings attached. When we look at the serious need of legal aid in domestic violence cases, it should help us to see that in addition to being in a position of blessing others, we ourselves will be blessed by extending a helping hand.
It was a brilliant move on the part of the legislature and/or Florida Supreme Court to develop self-help forms that a victim of domestic violence can file on their own behalf. There are also agencies with staff that can assist you with this process, such as the Family Justice Center Hillsborough County in Tampa or Bay Area Legal Services. If you do not qualify for legal aid in domestic violence cases, but need court intervention, I encourage you to take advantage of these resources.