Pro Bono
  • Print Page

New Partnership Helps Father Secure Emergency Custody

New Partnership Helps Father Secure Emergency CustodyIn 2019, the D.C. Access to Justice Commission Report noted that 83% of plaintiffs and 93% of respondents in divorce, custody, and miscellaneous cases appeared unrepresented in D.C. Superior Court’s Domestic Relations Branch. To combat the critical need for legal services, earlier this year, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, the DC Affordable Law Firm, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia established the Family Law Assistance Network (FLAN). Because the court is closed during the pandemic, FLAN established a dedicated phone line and began taking referrals in March 2020. One recent case reflects FLAN’s immediate impact.

A father, Mr. P, called FLAN regarding emergency custody of his son. His son’s mother died while his son was receiving inpatient mental health treatment. For his son to continue his treatment, Mr. P needed a custody order stating he had the ability to make legal decisions. The Pro Bono Center’s FLAN counsel filed an emergency motion for custody and arranged for a same-day emergency hearing. With counsel, Mr. P was able to establish parentage and get the order he needed for his son’s treatment. Mr. P is grateful for the representation and is eager for his son to get the treatment he needs and eventually be released to his home.

Cases like Mr. P’s demonstrate how high-quality legal representation can be a stabilizing force for families during challenging times. The Pro Bono Center’s managing attorney for family law services, Vanessa Batters-Thompson, explained, “Family law cases can determine virtually every aspect of a child’s life. We teamed up with our partners to start FLAN so parents and caregivers can easily access free legal services at critical points in their Domestic Relations case. FLAN is thrilled to serve District families during the ongoing public health crisis and beyond.”