AP NEWS

AVDA training pro bono attorneys in Harris, Fort Bend Counties

May 20, 2019

AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse), in partnership with University of Houston Law Center, announces specialized training to prepare Houston-area attorneys for the representation of non-responsive or indigent respondents in Harris and Fort Bend courts.

These pro bono attorneys will help further the work of the agency by filling an identified gap in helping victims finalize divorce and child support/custody cases as well as other cases as identified by the courts.

The Service by Publication/Ad Litem Training with 7.5 CLE training credits will benefit licensed Houston-area attorneys wishing to serve in a pro bono capacity as an ad litem (court-appointed attorney to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party) or by fulfilling the Service by Publication requirement for AVDA’s clients as well as for other cases , as needed and identified by the courts.

This training is made possible by a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $20 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.

AVDA’s eight trauma-informed staff attorneys provide free legal representation for victims of domestic abuse who otherwise could not afford attorney fees for the divorce and child support/custody cases necessary to rebuild their lives. The law requires AVDA to serve due process on the respondent (alleged abuser) in order to move forward with legal proceedings.

However, many victims of domestic abuse experience significant delays, are denied representation, or are forced to withdraw their case in divorce or child custody cases each year due to their inability to serve notice on the responding party. With pro bono attorneys fulfilling the Service by Publication or ad litem requirement, AVDA staff lawyers can seek justice for their clients, allowing closure after years of abuse in many cases.

“While our commitment to the use of full-time, paid staff remains firm, we are aware of the limitations on our staff attorneys due to funding and caseload. We often need the assistance of pro bono attorneys to perform the Service by Publication and act as the ad litem for the missing or absent respondent party (alleged batterer) in support of our clients’ cases,” stated Director of Legal Advocacy Program Maisha Colter. “The lack of funds to pay an attorney and resources to locate the respondent ourselves made cases likes these impossible for AVDA’s Legal Advocacy Program to handle.

“As a result of the November elections, there was significant turnover in the Family Court benches. With all new family law judges taking office in 2019, AVDA wants to ensure that there are trained volunteers who have been approved by the newly appointed judges and who are ready to serve, as needed,” added Colter. “Furthermore, the nature of our work attracts the interest of many licensed attorneys who want to give back or assist AVDA in our mission to end abuse. We seek to ensure quality representation for as many victims of abuse as possible throughout the community.”

Service by Publication is the act of serving a summons or another legal document pertaining to a lawsuit by publishing it in a general-circulation newspaper. It gives “constructive notice” to an unknown, intentionally absent or in-hiding defendant and is commonly used in divorce actions to serve papers to a spouse who cannot be found.

Constructive notice assumes that the defendant receives the notice even when not delivered in person. This service of process is permitted only on a judge’s order after a sworn declaration has been given of the failure to locate the defendant after exercising due diligence. The court considers publication effective whether or not it is read by the defendant.

Attorneys interested in participating in the Service by Publication/Ad Litem Training with CLE should contact AVDA Director of Legal Advocacy Program Maisha Colter at MaishaC@avda-tx.org. For more information, visit www.avda.org/get-involved.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.