This blog was originally posted on the website for Toeppen & Grevious, and can be found here. It is re-posted with permission from Toeppen & Grevious.
Legal services for divorce and other common family law issues can be prohibitively expensive, especially for families who already struggle just to meet typical day to day needs. However, in recent years, many organizations have recognized these concerns and have started to make legal resources available at little or no cost to families with limited incomes. Here are just a few of the free and discounted legal resources available to low income families in the Sacramento area.
Sacramento Court Self-Help Center
The Sacramento County Court’s Self-Help Center offers a number of services, including assistance in completing legal forms and providing guidance for many areas of family law, including legal separation, child custody, child support, spousal support, visitation, domestic violence-related restraining orders, and more.
The self-help center is designed to assist persons who are not represented by an attorney. According to the self-help center’s website, they can specifically assist with the following:
- Provide information on how to open a case;
- Give instructions on the completion of court forms;
- Assist with responding to court forms;
- Performing spousal and child support calculations
- Guidance on how to follow-up with subsequent steps of a case;
- Preparing orders and judgments;
- Finding additional resources.
The center offers assistance in-person and via an e-correspondence system, and also offers a variety of additional workshops on a regular basis. For more information, contact the self-help center directly via their e-correspondence site.
Sacramento Court One Day Divorce Program
For those with divorce cases currently pending before the Sacramento Superior Court, the Sacramento Court system offers a One Day Divorce Program. Attorneys and law students volunteer their time to assist eligible parties to prepare necessary documents and finalize agreements necessary to obtain a final divorce Judgment. Those who successfully complete the process can go before a judge on the same day, and leave the court with a final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
The One Day Divorce Program is only parties who are representing themselves, and who have filed for dissolution of marriage in Sacramento County. In addition to being limited to litigants who are representing themselves, the program is restricted to households that make less than a certain monthly income. For more information on the program and eligibility, visit the One Day Divorce Program’s website here.
Sacramento Court Resource Referral Program
Parents who have cases heard before the Sacramento Superior Court often end up being required to comply with certain court orders. Court orders can include such requirements as:
- Alcohol or drug testing;
- Anger management courses;
- Co-parenting classes;
- Counseling or therapy;
- Job training;
- Parental education;
- Supervised child visitation.
Many of these services can be expensive and/or difficult to locate. In order to help parents comply with court orders, the Sacramento Court provides lists of low-cost (and sometimes free) providers of such services. In order to find the most up-to-date lists of such providers, visit the Sacramento Court’s resource referral program page here.
Sacramento County Public Law Library’s Civil Self-Help Center
The SCPLL’s Civil Self-Help Center provides a variety of free services to residents of Sacramento, and those who have a civil case pending in the Sacramento County court system. The Civil Self-Help Center has a page that explains in detail the issues that they can assist with. In addition, the CSHC has free monthly workshops on topics such as written discovery, changing your name, and establishing guardianship. Lastly, every Monday night, the library has a Lawyers in the Library program, in which self-represented litigants can receive a free 20 minute consultation on their cases.
For more information on the services offered by the SCPLL, call them directly at 916-874-6012. They do not accept inquiries by email.
University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
The first Friday of each month, excluding holidays, a clinic is held at McGeorge School of Law in Classroom C to assist parties with preparing documents to start the divorce process. The clinic is free and law students and attorneys volunteer to assist individuals with preparing the paperwork. There is no legal advice offered at the clinic, but people with few or no assets can get the basic help needed to begin their divorce.
Since many of the free resources available to litigants do not include any legal advice, if your case is complicated or there are pensions, retirement accounts, or real property you will likely need the assistance of an attorney.