Free legal clinic helps families care for children of addicted parents

CINCINNATI -- Moving through the courts can be tricky, especially for someone trying to care for children of addicted parents. 

"It's scary for anyone to come to court," Kelly Malone, family law managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati, said.

They're trying something new in Hamilton County Juvenile Court: a free custody clinic. Volunteer attorneys with the Legal Aid Society help people navigate the custody process. The clinic started six weeks ago.

"We've had almost 60 people, I think, come in at this point," Judge John Williams said. "Four hundred people have come up to our help desk."

The clinic provides information to people like grandparents wanting to get custody of their grandchildren. In some cases, they may only need a power of attorney, but they need to talk to a lawyer to know which one is best.

"It's useful to give some advice about how to complete those documents so that they can be processed properly," volunteer attorney John Sellins said.

The attorneys don't appear in court with the family members, but the advice is needed. More lawyers are also needed.

"The need, I think will always be there and we will always try to fulfill that," Anne Lucas, managering attorney for the Volunteer Lawyers Project, said. "But we will always need to be recruiting new attorneys to do that."

The clinic, a pilot program for Hamilton County, is open on Mondays and Wednesdays. The courts and Legal Aid will assess it after six months and see if it should expand.

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