Superior Court Opens Self-Help Legal Center in Pasadena Courthouse

By | Resources

Superior Court Opens Self-Help Legal Center in Pasadena Courthouse

 By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer

[Published Thursday, March 12, 2009]

The Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday celebrated the grand opening of its 12th self-help legal access center, located at the Pasadena Courthouse.

Northeast District Supervising Judge Candace J. Beason hailed the event as “a fabulous, fabulous occasion.”

Beason said she had been looking forward to the opening of the clinic—housed in what had been the courthouse’s law library, which was moved across the street to the public library—because, as a member of the bench, she had seen a “significant number of people with questions and misconceptions of the legal system.”

Neal S. Dudovitz, the executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los

Angeles opined that “it’s been quite a journey” since the first self-help center opened at the Van Nuys courthouse in 2000.

Over the years, Dudovitz said the self-help centers have helped over 500,000 people, and assisted over 91,000 in the last year alone.

These clinics “are about core values of out democracy,” he insisted. “Everybody has to be able to walk through the doors of the courthouse, everybody has to be able to be heard…or our justice system will not survive.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Civil Supervising Judge Elihu M. Berle echoed Dudovitz’s concern and opined the Pasadena clinic “could not have come at a better time.”

Noting the “devastating effect of the economy on our community,” Berle suggested a growing number of people with legal problems do not qualify for legal aid, cannot afford an attorney, but still require assistance navigating the court system.

With the Pasadena location, Berle said self-help centers are now available at each of the largest civil courthouses in each geographic area of the county, providing a  “quantum leap in service” for self-represented litigants.

The Pasadena facility was funded by the court, the Judicial Council of California, the Administrative Office of the Courts and through grants from the State Bar to Neighborhood Legal Services and to Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

It will be staffed by court employees, legal aid partners and Justice Corps student interns, court officials said. Services will also be available in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese.

Janice Shurlow, a family law attorney based at the Pasadena center, said that the new facility is one of the largest centers available, and boasts two rooms for hosting workshops and clinics. The largest self-help center is at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

She said that the Pasadena location will be offering workshops and clinics on divorce, paternity, domestic violence, unlawful detainer and elder law.

The resource center is located on the third floor of the courthouse, in room 300. It is open  from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.

Other courthouse-based, self-help legal access centers are located in Antelope Valley-Lancaster, Compton, Inglewood, Long Beach, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Monica, Torrance and Van Nuys.


Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company

Divorce 101

By | Blog

First, there is shock. Whether it was your spouse’s idea or your suggestion, the realization that your union won’t last “’til death do us part” requires a major mental reset.

Second, there are questions. Will it be expensive? What happens to my retirement money?

How will I begin to start over and have a new life? What about the kids?

Finding answers is not always easy. Often, it requires phone calls and meetings with multiple professionals. Now women can gather these responses all at once – at divorce workshops offered by Divorcehelp.org.

The workshop offers women a safe place to get the score from experts in the field. They explain all the aspects of the process, step by step.

In attendance are:

  • an attorney who’s a board-certified family law specialist
  • a family therapist
  • a financial professional who specializes in divorce.

While each divorce is unique and involves individual issues, here’s a brief look at the essential information.

The legal points surrounding divorce can be complex and thorny. You will need expert advice, not your brother’s friend’s cousin who went through this last year, and certainly not the type of “quicky divorce” filer you see advertised on park benches. Whether you need a litigator, a collaborative divorce attorney, or a mediator will depend on your circumstances and the attitude of your spouse. The process can also take some time, so be prepared for divorce to be a process, not just an event.

Even the person initiating a divorce will feel an emotional impact. Such a separation is a huge change in your life and the lives of your children. You should definitely consider family therapy to help your kids understand that this is not about them. Be sure you find your own support through therapy, a divorce support group, friends and family. It’s natural to feel guilty or angry about divorce, but your support system can help you through it. Try learning something novel to help you kick off your new life.

No matter the legal terms of your divorce, your monetary picture will change. Women often end up with less disposable income, even after child support or alimony. Those who left careers to care for children may struggle to re-enter the workforce. Speak to a financial adviser, and do it sooner rather than later in the process. Things will be different now, so make sure you have a plan in place. Remember to give time to what may seem like far-off issues, such as retirement. Consider also the fiscal implications of all your decisions. For example, the person paying alimony can deduct it as an expense on a tax return, while the ex-spouse who receives it will be taxed for the income. Think about selling the house. Your mortgage payment may be too high to sustain on your new income. While it can be difficult to let go, it might be best for your budget in the long run.

The DivorceHelp.org workshops are designed to start you right on the road to answering these questions by bringing together qualified, local professionals. The environment is safe, collaborative and non-threatening. There are no “sales pitches”, just honest information given by people who care.