More than $200,000 has been awarded to seven agencies across Tennessee as part of the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice initiative.
The support is made possible through federal funding received from the Department of Human Services through the Access and Visitation Grant program, earmarked for programs that develop or support initiatives that will aid self-represented litigants in child support cases obtain access to and visitation with their children.
Local agencies throughout the state have benefitted from the grants, which range in amount from $7,500 to $45,000 and are for the twelve months starting October 1, 2012. The Administrative Office of the Courts manages the grant program.
The Access and Visitation Grant program has been in existence for over a decade and has provided assistance to over 1,800 custodial and non-custodial parents or grandparents in the past year. The work of the agencies resulted in an increase in visitation for approximately 60% of the non-custodial parents that participated.
Details of the agencies receiving funds:
1. Community Legal Center
30th Judicial District (Shelby County)
Services: Provide legal information to lower income parents in uncontested divorces (on the pro se docket) in a clinic located in the courthouse from 9 a.m. -12 p.m. every day.
2. Juvenile Court of Shelby County/Memphis
30th Judicial District (Shelby County)
Services: Provide assistance with development of parenting plans in child support cases where lower income parents have custody/visitation issues by providing answers to initial legal questions concerning child support/visitation as assistance to the Office of Non-Custodial parents.
3. Fayette County General Sessions/Juvenile Court
25th Judicial District
Services: Creation of a pro se clinic where attorneys will be available to provide legal information and drafting of documents for lower income pro se parents with child support cases wanting visitation with their children. These lawyers will provide the services at a reduced fee.
1. Nashville Conflict Resolution Center
20th Judicial District Juvenile Court (Davidson County)
Services: Provide on-site family mediations (child custody, visitation and/or child support) at the court and court-referred family mediations at the office on Mondays from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm on the pro se docket; on Tuesdays from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm on the dependent-neglect docket; and on Thursdays all day on the Child Support Docket in addition to mediating family cases at the office throughout the week (Monday and Tuesday mornings, and all day Thursdays).
2. Quality Time Project
17th Judicial District Juvenile Court (Marshall County)
Services: A pro se clinic provided by volunteer attorneys to assist indigent citizens (usually never married parents) of Marshall County who are required to pay child support but have no visitation rights with their children. The project will provide assistance to the indigent parents through education about their project, the development and publication of a pro se packet which will include instructions and necessary documents for filing the petition to establish the parenting plan, a monthly pro se clinic, and the operation of a hotline for clinic attendees.
1. Legal Aid of East Tennessee
26 counties in East Tennessee
Services: Provide pro se guided clinical models that help the low income self-represented litigants obtain a divorce and develop a parenting plan that ensures access to the children by the non-primary residential parent and establishes child support.
2. Southeast Tennessee Legal Services
10, 11 and 12th Judicial Districts (Hamilton and surrounding counties)
Services: Provide unbundled legal services to the public libraries in the districts to assist self-represented litigants. The program will provide legal forms for initial divorce with minor children, both contested and uncontested, including parenting plans and preparation of child support worksheets for low income litigants, as well as post divorce issues. This project will also provide forms and blank draft proceedings as directly requested by the Court, legal forms for post-divorce issues including modifications of child custody or support and contempt actions, as well as provide specific, individual written instructions on the procedures to enable clients to represent themselves in court, and on other matters.
If you have any questions about the grants, or any questions regarding services the grantees will be providing, please contact Claudia Lewis, AOC Programs Manager, or Mary Rose Zingale, AOC Court Services Director at 615-741-2687.