Legal Clinic Overview Presented by Fathers’ Support Center, St. LouisAuthor: CFFPP . Date: March 2, 2012
The Fathers’ Support Center, St. Louis (FSC), operates a legal clinic that can serve as a model for practitioners seeking to provide legal services to low-income noncustodial parents. The clinic offers legal services related to paternity, child support order modification, visitation, expungement of criminal records, and custody if the child is at risk of placement into the child welfare system. The clinic is now in its second year of operation, and includes one staff attorney who is a former judge, one contract attorney who is a current judge, two law students, and a social worker / intake specialist.
FSC’s Halbert Sullivan, CEO, and Chester Deanes, Director of Community Outreach, gave a presentation about starting up and operating the legal clinic at the recent 13th Annual National Fatherhood & Families Conference in Los Angeles. The process of starting the clinic included researching the legal needs of low-income noncustodial parents in St. Louis, and confirming the lack of affordable services (see slides 8 and 9). The presentation also outlines FSC’s operating goals for the clinic over different time frames, the social impacts measured, and potential risks to the larger organization of operating this legal service.
The clinic offers two levels of legal services depending on whether the client’s fees are subsidized. Some of the clinic’s low-income clients have their fees subsidized by federal funding and receive legal consulting, such as help filling pro se forms, but an FSC attorney cannot represent that person in court. Other clients who are able to pay the clinic’s discounted fees can be represented by an FSC attorney in court.