There are a number of legal services that provide free family law legal help to low-income people in the New York City area. Many of these services focus on domestic violence.
Pace Women’s Justice Center
PWJC provides free legal help to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse. As Westchester County’s largest civil legal services and training provider exclusively addressing these issues, PWJC helps individuals navigate the legal system and obtain services related to divorce, custody, support, financial exploitation, public benefits, and housing.
Pace Women’s Justice Center is a nonprofit legal center at Pace Law School that specializes in eradicating domestic violence and sexual assault through direct legal services, community outreach and advocacy. It operates a walk-in Legal Clinic on the Pace Law School Campus and has two walk-in offices at the Family Court Complex in Yonkers and White Plains.
Pace also offers a gender-specific program that focuses on girls who are at risk of becoming involved in the justice system, helping them regain self-esteem, avoid incarceration and find their voices. It’s a program that has proven its effectiveness over and over again, with consistently positive results. It’s a program that gives girls hope and encouragement, and a place to dream.
Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee
Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee offers free legal help in family law, including separation or divorce, child support, custody and visitation. They also offer specialized help for domestic violence survivors, as well as counseling and referrals for victims of crimes, elder abuse and sexual assault.
NSLS is one of the oldest legal assistance programs in New York and is one of the largest providers of free civil legal help in the state. It offers a wide variety of services and provides assistance in many areas of law, from immigration to public benefits to housing.
NSLS is also highly experienced in poverty law and from its start has focused on cases that involve the survival needs of people with low incomes, involving shelter, food, healthcare and family issues. This organization also helps clients with public benefits denials and social security (SSI/SSD) matters, though it does not assist kinship caregivers in Family Court unless the caller has HIV.
SEPA Mujer, Servicios para el Avance de la Mujer (Services for the Advancement of Women), provides legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. They offer services in Family Court including assistance with obtaining orders of protection, custody, visitation and child support. They also provide assistance in filing for Battered Spouse Waivers, U Visas, VAWA petitions and other immigration relief.
In its 24th year, the nonprofit is based in Patchogue and serves Latinas from across Long Island. It provides a variety of services ranging from leadership training and civic engagement to legal counseling for survivors of domestic violence and others.
Executive director Martha Maffei said that since moving last year to a larger space on North Ocean Avenue in the South Shore community, the agency has doubled its staff and is ready to expand. They have plans for new programs and hope to hire three more people in the future.
SEPA Mujer has been working to empower women for over 30 years, and has become an essential part of Long Island’s Hispanic community, supporters say. The organization has also been a driving force behind the movement to end domestic violence.
Legal Assistance of Western NY
The Legal Assistance of Western NY provides free civil legal help to low-income people in 14 counties in Western New York. Services include housing/homelessness, evictions, access to food stamps and welfare terminations, unemployment benefits, veterans benefits, re-entry for former offenders, and other issues.
The Ontario County Office for the Aging has a contract with Legal Assistance of Western NY to provide help for older adults who are not financially eligible for other assistance. This includes power of attorney, health care proxies, preparation of simple wills and other legal problems.
A member of the Syracuse Bar Association, Jill has over 35 years of experience in the public interest field and is the Chief Program Officer for Legal Assistance of Western New York. She has a passion for improving the legal systems in underserved communities and prioritizes community legal education and empowerment.
She has a particular expertise in disability benefits, including Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability, which she practiced until her retirement in 2022.