"Our clients want to move forward after feeling lost and stuck in difficult situations for many, many years. Getting divorced on Valentine's Day was not a concern," said Kaleia Edmundo, Esq., staff attorney for VLJ. "One client recently wrote to us saying that now ‘I have peace of mind and your help has made my life better than I can remember.' They are all thrilled to close this chapter of their lives."
Low-income individuals in New Jersey can wait for years to get uncontested divorces for one specific reason: they can not afford private attorneys to help them navigate the complicated divorce filing and hearing process. VLJ has changed that for Essex County residents through its divorce seminars and clinics.
VLJ's Divorce Program
VLJ's effort takes a three-pronged approach. First, prospective clients attend a 90-minute seminar where they are given an overview of the divorce process in New Jersey. After the seminar, which is open to the public, clients are screened for eligibility for the divorce clinic including income requirements and residency in Essex County. Those who qualify receive direct assistance from VLJ's volunteer attorneys and staff members including the drafting and filing of the complaint. Finally, clients who have already attended a seminar, received assistance from a volunteer, filed all of the appropriate documents with the court, and waited the requisite amount of time, are granted a divorce before family law judge The Honorable James Troiano, a VLJ partner on this project.
"Last year, more than 300 attended our informational seminars and an average of six clients per month were successfully divorced with assistance from our volunteer attorneys," continued Edmundo. "We're filling a critical need in the court system."
Replicating Program for Other Municipalities
The overwhelming need stretches beyond Essex County, and due to that, VLJ is now assisting municipalities interested in replicating its divorce seminar and clinic for a nominal fee. VLJ will provide the municipality with all of the necessary forms and staff members will serve as a resource, particularly as the program gets up and running. To learn more about VLJ's divorce seminar and clinic, please visit www.vljnj.org.
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About Volunteer Lawyers for Justice: Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) provides comprehensive legal services to economically-