Low-Income Women in Abusive Marriages in Beaver, Butler Counties Can Now Get Free Legal Help through ‘New Beginnings’ Program

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Allegheny County Bar Foundation Expands Program into Neighboring Counties

Many women are trapped in abusive marriages because they can’t afford the legal representation needed in to navigate the divorce process. The Allegheny County Bar Foundation aims to help women in these situations through its New Beginnings program.

Through the program, ACBF staff and volunteer attorneys provide free legal representation to women with very low incomes who have experienced abuse in their marriages and wish to be divorced in order to move on with their lives. The program has been in place in Allegheny County for decades and is now expanding into Beaver  and Butler Counties.

“It is tragic that so many women in our community feel trapped in abusive marriages simply because they don’t have the financial resources to hire an attorney,” said Barbara Griffin, director of the ACBF Pro Bono Center. “We have successfully helped hundreds of women in Allegheny County escape these situations, but until now, there have been few resources to help low-income women in the surrounding counties.”

The program’s expansion into Beaver and Butler counties is possible thanks to a $20,000 grant from the FISA Foundation.

“We are extremely grateful to the FISA Foundation for the providing the funds necessary to allow us to help people in need,” said Griffin. “This generosity is making such a big difference in the lives of women in our community.”

Eligibility

The project will serve vulnerable individuals who currently have little or no access to free legal services for divorce. The basic eligibility requirements are as follows. To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Be a female resident of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, or Lawrence County for at least 6 months.
  • Have experienced physical or emotional abuse in her marriage as evidenced by the applicant having sought or been granted a Protection from Abuse order; by criminal charges for domestic violence filed against the applicant’s spouse; or by the client’s self-identification.
  • Have a household income at 125% of the federal poverty level or below.
  • Be willing to proceed as a simple divorce with no claims for equitable distribution or custody.  Other legal aid, pro bono, or reduced-fee services may be available for child support and child custody matters.

Attorneys’ services will be provided at no charge. The ACBF will seek permission from the courts for our clients to proceed in forma pauperis so that court filing fees will be waived.

Those interested in applying for help through the project should call 412-402-6714. For more information, visit www.PittsburghProBono.org/NewBeginnings.asp.