New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Helping to balance the scales of justice for everyone since 1971.

NHLA receives new 3-year grant to help domestic violence survivors

September 20, 2016

Concord, NH – When a victim of domestic violence decides to leave an abusive relationship, they deserve every available assistance, including civil legal aid. Victims forced to represent themselves in family court are at a severe disadvantage. Unaware of the various forms of support available to them, they often do not ask for what they need to make a new start.

Facing such dire circumstances, abuse victims, especially those with very low incomes, often struggle financially to provide for their children’s basic living needs, and may even find they have no other choice but to return to the abusive partner. Immigrants and refugees especially face cultural and language barriers that can severely hinder their ability to escape from their abuser.

Thanks to funding from the Legal Assistance for Victims program of the federal Office of Violence Against Women, New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) will soon be able to help more survivors access their rights through comprehensive representation in the family court system. The grant will provide $589,000 over the next three years for NHLA’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Project (DVAP).

“Our staff worked tirelessly to secure this vital funding for civil legal aid for survivors of domestic violence,” said NHLA Executive Director Lynne Parker. “It takes immense strength to leave an abusive relationship. Civil legal aid of the kind we will now be able to provide is a crucial thread in the fabric of community support for them as they seek to rebuild their lives.”

With this federal funding, NHLA will hire a full-time attorney to provide services to victims at the Manchester Community Health Center (MCHC) and Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire (CCCNH), with specific emphasis on helping survivors who come from immigrant and refugee communities.

The new attorney will spend one or two days each week at MCHC, and one or two days each week at CCCNH in Concord.

While on site, the attorney will provide legal advice, brief services and full representation to clients and families on domestic violence family law related matters and other civil legal problems. MCHC and DVAP will work closely with the YWCA crisis service in Manchester to connect clients to peer support, safety planning and other social service needs. NHLA will plan and provide training to MCHC staff and develop training materials on issues related to domestic and sexual violence and stalking.

The new funding will also support the NH Bar Association Pro Bono Referral Program’s Domestic Violence Emergency Project (Pro Bono/DOVE) in recruiting and training private attorneys to assist victims in family law cases, including trainings to increase cultural competency and use of interpreters so private attorney volunteers will be better equipped to serve immigrant and refugee victims.

About NHLA and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project (DVAP):

New Hampshire Legal Assistance is a state-wide non-profit law firm founded in 1971 to fulfill America’s promise of equal justice by providing civil legal aid to New Hampshire’s poor, including education and empowerment, advice, representation, and advocacy for systemic change. NHLA maintains offices in Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth.

Since 1998, NHLA’s DVAP project has provided holistic legal services to victims and survivors of domestic abuse. In partnership with the Pro Bono/DOVE program, DVAP attorneys are trained to represent victims and survivors of intimate partner violence in a variety of family law matters including divorce, parenting and protective order cases. DVAP attorneys are also proficient in various administrative, consumer and housing law cases. Clients needing assistance in these areas of law may also be referred to an NHLA attorney outside of the DVAP with expertise in a particular legal matter. For instance, we will refer a DVAP client facing illegal housing discrimination to one of NHLA’s experienced fair housing attorneys. Clients needing assistance outside NHLA’s practice areas may be referred to the private bar for help from a pro bono lawyer, for instance, with help preparing a new will post-divorce or resolving an immigration problem. Since its inception, the DVAP has served thousands of survivors of abuse.