Protecting rights. One of our attorneys described a situation that illustrates the need for an attorney to balance the power between parties by educating clients on their rights: “A lady came into the Ogden clinic a couple of months ago. She had been married for 17 years and wanted to get divorced. He had her believing the house was his because it was in his name. And the cars. And the furniture. All his. She had made a little to-go bag with some soap and a roll of toilet paper in it and he yelled at her and said she was stealing from him. She was on the verge of leaving him to stay with a daughter. She was struggling to find work, having been a stay-at-home wife (per his wishes) for 17 years.” The Timpanogos Legal attorney concluded, “It was wonderful to clue her in on her rights. Half of everything, including retirement was hers. Alimony was also a very real possibility. Her eyes got bigger and bigger as I explained.” Without consulting an attorney, she might have believed him and signed paperwork that could not be undone.
Physical protection and safety. In April 2019 a woman contacted us for help in getting a stalking injunction against a former boyfriend. He has been harassing her and her friends, family, and religious leaders. We gave her advice and drafted court paperwork for her. She filed it with the court and, per our suggestion, received free legal representation at the hearing through Utah Legal Services. She was relieved and excited when she got the stalking injunction. It is much more difficult to get a stalking injunction than it is to get a protective order, so the drafting of the paperwork is critical. One of the most important outcomes was that the client was empowered by this process. She told the Timpanogos Legal attorney how grateful she was and how much safer she feels.
Custody & Parenting Plans. We had been working with a man who had been involved in a highly contentious divorce case. His wife frequently denied him his court-ordered parent-time without giving a reason. His higher-paying job was eliminated; he had to take a lower-paying job and could not afford an attorney. He was working with a Special Master who was slow to respond to requests for help. He frequently came to the Family Justice Center for advice, then he would go to work on applying the advice, coming back for help when he got stuck. One night at the Family Justice Center he stayed in the waiting room after all the clients had left even though he had talked to an attorney earlier in the evening. He looked at our Executive Director and said, “Do you know what you do here?” She paused to see where this was going and he continued with a trembling voice, “You give hope.” He returned a short while later to report that he had followed our advice and the Special Master resigned because she was too busy, but she helped him find another good Special Master who would be available to work out problems.
More on hope and compassion.
An email recently came from a client that summarizes the gratitude expressed by many: “I can't say in words how grateful I am to this truly good group of people who volunteer their time. Thank you. As I've sat for hours with other people who have come to seek out a thread of encouragement, I know it can't be easy for you to peek into and witness the pain of those whose most challenging life experiences are exposed. It can be heartbreaking and I want to recognize the uniquely compassionate and strong group that you are. I'm grateful for your desire and ability to touch so many lives and provide little rays of hope to so many. My life has been changed for the better because you care, sometimes when no one else does. Thank you, most sincerely.”
Eviction and discrimination guidance. A young family faced losing the pad space for their mobile home. The landlords wanted them out and started giving them long lists of things they had to change. The family complied with the requests even though others in the park were doing the same things this family was (maintaining a dog run) and the things that the landlord required weren't in the rental contract or park rules. It became clear that the landlord was discriminating based on race.
The clients were given advice on how to handle the potential eviction and on how to pursue discrimination claims. The clients followed through on the advice they received. This sweet couple brought a huge cake to the Family Justice Center [our weekly clinic] to announce that they had won their discrimination case and the landlord was ordered to pay the fees. The husband whispered, "We would have lost our home without you, without this place."
Custody & Modifying Orders. A client sought help from Timpanogos Legal when her ex-husband filed a Petition to Modify asking for joint physical and legal custody of their youngest child, who was unborn at the time of the divorce. He also filed a Motion for Temporary Orders asking for this change to be made quickly.
Our client received custody of their child when she got divorced. During the divorce proceedings she learned that she was pregnant. The unborn child was never mentioned in the Decree of Divorce. She did not know it was possible to change the petition during the divorce proceedings to include the unborn child. She and her ex-husband continued to live together for six months after the birth of the child, but she was the one who primarily took care of the child. When her ex-husband left, he didn’t seek parent time with the children for two years.
When her ex-husband re-entered their lives, he made demands about when he wanted to see the kids. Our client did her best to facilitate open parent time, believing that it was important for the children to develop a good relationship with their father. The father was seeing the children almost every weekend, but there was almost always conflict. Our client learned about the statutory parent time schedule and felt like there would be less conflict if she didn’t have to interact with him during the parent exchanges every single weekend. When she suggested a new schedule for parent time, instead of “on-demand” parent time, he filed the Petition to Modify and requested Temporary Orders. His statement in support made it sound as though he had been the primary caretaker of the children.
Our client was alarmed after being served. It seemed devastating after everything she had done to cooperate with the father of the children. She didn’t have the money to pay for an attorney, and he had an attorney. Jade learned about the Timpanogos Legal Center Document Clinic and went through the screening process. By the time she contacted us she only had a short time left to respond, and it was over Thanksgiving break, which would be a very difficult time to find an attorney to help. Regardless of the time crunch, we took the case and helped her file an answer and counterclaim to the Petition to Modify and a response and counter-motion to the Motion for Temporary Orders. Armed with legal advice, an understanding of the process, and solid documents that laid out her case, our client came to a stipulation with the opposing attorney that worked out well for the children, for our client, and for the father of the kids. She is extremely grateful for the legal help she received at a critical time for her and the children.
Nonpayment of Financial Support. Our client’s ex-husband quit his job a year and half ago and refused to pay the child support, alimony, and car payment granted in the Decree of Divorce. Our client was going back to school to become a social worker and working as a server at Olive Garden. She had been a stay-at-home mom with a comfortable lifestyle prior to the divorce. Without the court-ordered financial support she struggled to pay for necessities. Her church helped for a while, but couldn’t support the family long term.
Our client thought she was out of options. She couldn’t afford an attorney. She described feelings of despair as she tried to find ways to stay in school and still meet the expenses of the family with no financial support from the father of her children. She started to feel that there was no hope.
One day our client discussed her situation with one of her teachers, who happened to be the director of our local clinic. She encouraged our client to come in and talk with an attorney from Timpanogos Legal Center. Our client thought there was no way that a one-time meeting could possibly make a difference in her bleak situation, but she was out of options, so she came to the Family Justice Center clinic one Tuesday night.
She was emotional with gratitude when she left the clinic because of the kindness shown to her by the volunteer attorney from Timpanogos Legal Center. She couldn’t believe what a difference one session could make in her life. In describing her experience that night she said, “After speaking with the lawyer at the clinic, a huge burden was lifted knowing that I had answers, and I also felt empowered knowing that I had their assistance. I learned about all of these phenomenal resources that are available to me that I had no idea existed. I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders as I learned that I had options.”
She summarized her experience like this, “It was like night and day when I learned how to change my situation. I am extremely grateful for the help that I have received at the clinic and I am so impressed that such a valuable resource is offered to our community.
Custody & Enforcement. Another client was the mother of three kids. She spoke Spanish and very little English, which had been a big barrier for her. In her Decree of Divorce she was given sole custody of her children. Two years later, when the two oldest boys started getting into trouble, the parents decided together that the boys should go and spend extended time with their father who had moved to Arizona. The Decree was never modified.
A few months later when she tried to get the boys back, her ex-husband refused to return them. She had no way to get to Arizona to pick up the boys. She went to the Court Clerk to ask for help in getting her sons back, but they could not assist her and she did not receive any referrals. She did not know where to go for help. She saved her money to go to Arizona with a copy of her Decree. After she went to the school in Arizona and showed them a copy of the Decree giving her full custody, the school called the police. The officer told her they would not let her take her sons since they had been in Arizona for 16 months by that point, despite the fact the father had no court order. Our client saw her younger son at the school. He had lost weight and did not look very healthy. The son had told her by phone that the dad and stepmom were seldom home, didn’t prepare meals, and had drug paraphernalia in the home, so he suspected that the parents used drugs.
After she went to Arizona, the father cut off phone contact with the children. When she returned to Utah she looked for legal help. She had no money to hire an attorney. She learned about Timpanogos Legal Center. Our client was paired with a wonderful volunteer attorney who worked with Timpanogos Legal attorneys to assist with translation and mentoring as he prepared the documents. The documents required some sophistication to prepare because of the many issues involved, including alleged drug use, two jurisdictions, the length of time that elapsed while father had physical possession of the children, back child support, and more.The attorney and Timpanogos Legal staff prepared the Order to Show Cause documents with a request for Pick Up Order.
Parentage Petition & Custody. Our client’s long-term girlfriend who was the mother of his two children left him to live with her new boyfriend. She left the two kids as well as her daughter from a previous marriage with our client. He tried for several months to reconcile with her, all the while taking care of all three kids.
The day he came into the Family Justice Center clinic, his ex-girlfriend told him she had contacted a lawyer and was planning to take full custody of the children. He felt very discouraged because he had been turned away from other resources for legal advice because he wasn’t a documented U.S. resident. He qualified for the document clinic, where we drafted a parentage petition and temporary orders to ensure that there would be a legal document in place in case the mom tried to get the kids and not let them return to our client. As Timpanogos Legal was about to send the documents to file, the ex-girlfriend’s attorney contacted him. Over the phone, he was trying to encourage our client to give up the kids and let his ex-wife have custody. Our client served the attorney with our document clinic paperwork, stating that he wanted custody. The case is not resolved yet, but our client was so grateful, especially as a Spanish speaker, to have help drafting these important documents that would ensure that he would not simply have his kids taken away.
Custody Modification. Our client initially connected with Timpanogos Legal Center over the phone hotline. His ex-wife had custody of the kids and was not allowing him his regular parent time. In a conversation that he managed to have with one of his daughters, she said that there were strangers coming over to the house at all times during the day and night. He also found that his ex-wife had not taken the two sisters to school in over a week. He was finally able to see his kids. When he went into his ex-wife’s house, there were needles and other evidence of drug use.
Through Timpanogos Legal Center's document clinic, our client was able to receive assistance with Temporary Orders and a Petition to Modify that would give him custody of his daughters. The Temporary Orders that were drafted by the staff and volunteer attorney enabled him to get short-term custody of his kids to ensure that they were in a safe place and able to attend school.
Alex sent an email stating that the Court had agreed with his Petition to Modify and awarded him sole custody of the girls. He expressed gratitude for the document clinic and our ability to help him in this important case.