March 5, 2014

South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families helps fathers remove barriers to the judicial system

A partnership between the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, South Carolina Legal Services and Pro Bono Net is helping parents quickly start or modify child support orders, which is improving access to justice for parents who otherwise could not afford an attorney. The partnership leverages Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI) platform to standardize and automate court documents. LHI is a national online document-assembly solution focused on increasing access to justice.

The LHI forms have been shown to shave as much as three months off the time it previously took parents to create pleadings. With the ability to create court-approved forms on their own, parents are able to take control over their cases. To highlight the benefits of LHI’s technology in South Carolina, Pro Bono Net produced a case study that illustrates the improved outcomes for litigants and reduced costs for all parties.

In South Carolina, non-payment on child support places parents at risk of receiving contempt citations and criminal sentences. “Low-income and no-income parents face a huge threat of going to jail for nonsupport,” says Andrea Loney, executive director, South Carolina Legal Services. “Now the system works for the whole family, parents are able to create better pleadings faster, keeping them out of jail and child support going to children who need it.”

Loney added, “Collaboration between courts and legal nonprofits is more essential than ever. Working together, we have created a better way for those facing child support issues to move forward. Those without lawyers are struggling to preserve their rights on their own. Without easy-to-find online tools that are designed with their needs in mind—they flounder. It is not just about technology, it is about community. This project is opening the doors to those who need to apply or modify child support here in South Carolina.”

To fund their effort, the South Carolina partners sought Title IVD funding from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, allowing them to standardize and automate court-approved forms.

Glenn Rawdon, Program Counsel for Technology for the Legal Services Corp. says of the project, “This is a perfect example of legal aid groups working with other nonprofits and funders to develop projects that improve access to justice with easy-to-use, uniform forms as the cornerstone."

The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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