About the Practice Area Host Organizations
About This Site
This practice area is part of the NYC Pro Bono Center and supports advocates working on cases in the area of family/domestic violence, cases under the federal Violence Against Women Act, and involving immigration and asylum law. The practice area is a resource not only to lawyers who are volunteering to take cases from host organizations but also for family law and domestic violence advocates in legal services programs in New York City.
The site is hosted by leading legal services organizations in New York, including Her Justice, the City Bar Justice Center Immigrant Women and Children Project, NYLAG, Sanctuary for Families, and Safe Horizon.
What You Will Find - Practice Area Resources
Staff of the hosts of this practice area are experienced matrimonial and family court practitioners who have represented indigent clients for many years. When you join this practice area, you will:
- Gain access to a password protected library of resources, including online training materials, manuals, model pleadings and sample documents.
- Join a network of legal professionals with whom you can share ideas, strategy, and work product. This includes listservs to stay up to date and a roster of attorneys.
- Gain access to the award-winning NYS Family Offense Petition Program, which enables approved domestic violence advocates to e-file orders of protection in Family Court. (Advocates, click here to login.)
- The news tool will help you stay up to date and upcoming events and trainings offered by our public interest community will be shared on the calendar.
Please join us!
The clients who are looking for assistance in this area are indigent and cannot afford to hire counsel. Many are mothers who are solely responsible for the care of their children, or are victims of domestic violence, or recent immigrants, or HIV positive. Often, a woman will fall into more than one of those categories. Clients are referred to the host organizations by word of mouth, hospital emergency rooms, police, social services agencies, the courts, bar associations, and domestic violence shelters. They need your help. Did you know that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages 15 and 44 in the United States?
Types of Pro Bono Cases
The cases for volunteers run the gamut from simple uncontested divorces that are only a matter of preparing and filing papers with the court, to more complex contested divorces and cases in Family Court involving custody, child and spousal support and family offenses for victims of domestic violence. Read our volunteer profile about Rebecca Algie, a Her Justice pro bono volunteer and see an example of the type of work you might be involved in!
How to Join
You can join us right now by clicking here and filling out our application form. After we review the requested information, you will be provided with a response. We are certain that you will have a rewarding experience. Thank you for your interest! We hope to work with you soon.
Read about New York Family Justice/Domestic Violence practice area host organizations below:
City Bar Justice Center - Immigrant Women and Children Project
The Immigrant Women and Children Project recruits and trains volunteer attorneys to help immigrant victims of domestic violence seek freedom from their abusers and attain legal status in the United States. Founded in 1996, the Project was developed to assist women and children prepare self-petitions to obtain legal immigration status without relying on the sponsorship of an abusive spouse or parent. Volunteer attorneys assist clients with the preparation of immigration applications, including those needed to obtain work authorization. In 2002, an Anti-Trafficking component was added and the Project began to train law enforcement, community-based organizations and NGOs about the legal remedies available to victims of human trafficking, and started representing victims of trafficking in obtaining legal immigration status and public benefits, as well as counseling on civil, criminal and other legal issues.
The City Bar Justice Center, formerly the City Bar Fund, is the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar. Having established relationships with government, nonprofit and academic legal institutions, with corporations and private law firms of all sizes, and with bar associations locally, nationally and internationally, the City Bar Justice Center has the unique ability to bring together all segments of the bar to collaboratively address legal needs.
Her Justice opened its doors in 1993 as Network for Women's Services. Our primary mission is to expand the quality and availability of pro bono legal counsel to indigent and working-poor women in New York City. Her Justice fulfills its mission through a multi-pronged approach, providing support for our clients through pro bono lawyer representation, pro se and technical assistance, and community outreach. Since Her Justice opened, we have recruited, trained, and supervised more than 1,000 volunteer lawyers from 40 major law firms. We have also recruited a panel of experienced specialty lawyers as mentors for our young volunteers. Her Justice lawyers have represented over 700 women in both Supreme and Family Court. Each year our staff provides almost 1,000 additional women with information, technical assistance and short-term legal intervention. Her Justice also created a Divorce Workshop that teaches more than 50 women annually how to pursue obtaining their own uncontested divorces.
In January 1999, we opened our first satellite office in the South Bronx. We are coordinating our efforts there with legal services agencies, bar associations, judges and, most especially, with Bronx residents and community groups. In addition to direct provision of legal assistance, we are developing information clinics that offer residents better tools with which to address some of the poverty-driven issues that they confront on a daily basis.
Most of Her Justice's clients are women of color, and are victims of domestic violence. They need protection from batterers, custody of their children, and child support from their children's fathers. In our civil courts, which openly favor parties who are represented by counsel that understand the adversarial system, many such women daily forfeit important legal rights. As we enter the twenty-first century, enormous imbalances still persist in the judicial system. Much can be done by individuals to redress these imbalances. Her Justice and the volunteer attorneys participating in our Family Justice Program are dedicated to this goal. We invite you to join us.
New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
NYLAG was founded in 1990 to provide quality, free legal services to individuals who have been denied their rights to government support and entitlement programs.
In 1992, NYLAG founded its Family Law Unit to assist people who lack the means to hire private counsel but whose income disqualifies them for court appointed attorneys and lawyers from traditional legal services organizations. NYLAG's attorneys of the Family Law Unit represents clients in the Supreme and Family Courts of all five boroughs in family offenses, custody/visitation, child and spousal support, divorce, neglect/abuse and paternity actions.
NYLAG's clientele is diverse, from young single mothers seeking support to battered immigrants in need of an order of protection to middle age housewives seeking a fair portion of their husband's pension, but all are in desperate need of a lawyer. In 1994, NYLAG developed the Domestic Violence Initiative to assist battered women in surmounting the particular barriers which compound their difficulties, especially in their attempts to escape the cycle of violence and abuse. Another program NYLAG created to better serve this population is the Domestic Violence Clinical Center which teaches students of New York City law schools the substantive and litigation skills necessary to handle family offense and visitation actions under the strict supervision of the director of the clinic.
Through many years of daily practice in New York City, NYLAG's attorneys have gained expertise in family and matrimonial law which they share by supervising and mentoring volunteers and pro bono lawyers, and by conducting seminars and trainings. NYLAG also assists people in obtaining government benefits, special education for their children and immigration status, issues which can have a decisive effect on family or matrimonial cases.
As more and more low income individuals need lawyers at a time when funding for legal services decreases, we hope that you will help us "see those human beings who become invisible to most people and try to hear the pleas of those persons who, despite their pain and suffering, have become voiceless and forgotten." (Leon Higgenbotham's 1996 address to Wesleyan University)
Safe Horizon, Domestic Violence Law Project (DVLP)
Safe Horizon (formerly Victim Services) is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive services, preventing violence and promoting justice for victims of crime and abuse. Established in 1978, Safe Horizon is the nation's largest victim assistance provider and serves more than 200,000 clients annually, the vast majority of whom are low-income and impoverished battered women.
As a leading provider in this field, Safe Horizon offers a continuum of services that operate throughout New York City. A sampling of these programs include the following: New York City's 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline; Family and Criminal court-based victim advocates located in all five boroughs except Manhattan Criminal Court; emergency domestic violence shelters for battered women and children; transitional and permanent supportive housing; community-based offices, domestic violence prevention and outreach programs run collaboratively with the New York City Police Department and the New York City Housing Authority; and an emergency lock replacement program among others.
Responding to the overwhelming need for sensitive legal representation, Safe Horizon established DVLP in 1991. Since its inception, DVLP has provided high quality legal representation to thousands of low-income and indigent battered women in order of protection, custody, support and divorce proceedings. We also advocate for clients within the criminal justice system and inimmigration proceedings. DVLP staff conducts numerous educational training seminars with clients, pro bono attorneys, and Safe Horizon staff in order to increase awareness of the legal issues facing battered women.
In order to assist as many clients as possible, DVLP operates a legal hotline that provides information, advice and assistance to battered women. Over 1,200 women call our hotline per year. DVLP attorneys also receive referrals for representation from the citywide domestic violence hotline, directly from district attorneys and family court judges and from community groups through out the five boroughs.
Sanctuary for Families, Center for Battered Women's Legal Services
Sanctuary for Families is dedicated to meeting the needs of victims of domestic violence, while advocating for societal change and raising public awareness to end violence against all women and their children. Central to Sanctuary's work with individual clients and its efforts to advocate and educate is the belief that this is a crime that must not be tolerated.
Domestic violence is pervasive, crossing all racial, socioeconomic and national boundaries and affecting people of every age, sexual orientation and immigration status. Since its founding in 1984, Sanctuary has become a recognized model among domestic violence agencies by providing a range of culturally sensitive and integrated services.
To protect and empower battered women, Sanctuary provides crisis intervention, emergency and transitional housing, individual and group counseling, job readiness and mentoring programs. Through our legal center, we offer legal advice and direct representation, mentor volunteer attorneys and advocate legal reform.
We believe that our clients must be active participants in claiming control of their lives. To that end, Sanctuary responds to the needs of each client with professionalism and compassion.