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Family Law Assistance Network

Family Law Assistance Network

Response to COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Family Law Assistance Network (FLAN) has launched a remote legal advice hotline to serve litigants with emergency family law matters and provide limited scope services. Individuals with a D.C. case can call 202-844-5428 for legal help with custody, child support, parentage, or divorce matters. During this period when the D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Central Intake Center is not open to the public, FLAN will not generally exclude litigants requesting legal information and/or advice based on income or residency.  The hotline is staffed from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Who We Are

Dad and childrenThe Family Law Assistance Network (FLAN) is a joint project of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, the DC Affordable Law Firm, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. FLAN offers D.C.-based individuals confidential, free legal advice or representation in custody, child support, parentage, and divorce cases heard in the Domestic Relations Branch of D.C. Superior Court. When FLAN opens its doors later in 2020, it will operate on-site at D.C. Superior Court in Courtroom 105 Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. FLAN services individuals whose household income is below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Unrepresented Litigants in Family Law Cases in the District

FamilyAccording to the D.C. Access to Justice Commission Report, 83% of plaintiffs and 93% of respondents in divorce, custody, and miscellaneous cases appear pro se in D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court. According to the same report, 97% of respondents in paternity and child support cases are unrepresented in Family Court. FLAN affiliates offer limited scope services to these pro se litigants who have a family law matter in Family Court. By being on-site at the courthouse, FLAN serves pro se litigants that come to FLAN the day of their hearing, without counsel, and need immediate legal services.

“One of the biggest challenges cited by legal services providers is the high percentage of pro se litigants in Family Court.” – D.C. Access to Justice Commission Report

A Lawyer Can Make a Big Difference

The D.C. Access to Justice Commission Report states that “domestic relations proceedings such as divorce, child custody and visitation are among the highest volume filings in D.C. Superior Court, with close to 4,500 new cases filed in 2018 on top of the 1,200 plus cases that were pending at the beginning of that year.” A lawyer in these types of cases can make a huge difference. However, many litigants in family law cases cannot find attorneys or simply cannot afford an attorney.

Pro se litigants may struggle to fully litigate their family law case, and this puts the stability of their families at risk. Litigants that are represented by counsel have a greater chance of their rights being upheld and their families being protected. Increasing access to justice for litigants who cannot afford a lawyer in family law matters is a key focus for FLAN.

FLAN aims to close this gap in civil legal services by providing free, limited scope services, often the day of a hearing, so that all litigants have a fighting chance in family court.

Law Firm and Legal Services Commitment

FLAN leverages law firm support to provide intake screeners on-site at the court and as a referral source for pro bono cases. FLAN leverages limited resources by placing pro bono cases referred by FLAN for full representation with pro bono attorneys.

For more information, please contact Jenadee Nanini or Vanessa Batters-Thompson at [email protected].

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