A new free walk-in legal clinic designed to help low-income families with issues such as child support and parenting time will kick off in Clinton County next month, with plans to expand into Highland County in the near future.
The first clinic hours will take place 3-5 p.m. March 3 in the law library on the third floor of the Clinton County Courthouse.
Katie Wright, assistant prosecutor for the Child Support Enforcement Agency in Clinton County, said in a press release that the clinic will help resolve issues for families and make the child support system more efficient.
“I’ve been prosecuting child support for almost two years now, and I kept meeting people who needed basic legal help for issues like parenting time, or asking for an adjustment of their child support,” Wright said, who is a former city editor of The Times-Gazette. “If they can’t afford an attorney, these issues tend to linger and cause more problems. If we can resolve some of these problems, the whole system will run so much more smoothly and it will be better for both parents and for the children involved.”
Wright said she reached out to Anne Lucas of the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project in Cincinnati last year. Since then, Wright and Lucas have worked together to facilitate the clinic.
“A lot of people don’t realize that the Legal Aid Society is unable to take most cases in Clinton County,” Wright said, noting that federal funding for legal aid is at an all-time low. “That leaves low-income people with no options for legal help. So we have invited attorneys from Clinton and Highland counties to volunteer. We plan to expand to Highland County in the near future.”
Lee Koogler, president of the Highland County Bar Association, said Wednesday he agrees there is a gap in indigent cases due to the limited resources of the Legal Aid Society of Southern Ohio, which covers multiple counties in the region. He said that guidelines that exist in regard to the courts’ ability to appoint attorneys in such cases means “there is a need in that circumstance.”
Wright thanked attorneys John Judkins, Jim Williams, and Mitch Lippert for their willingness to volunteer for the first clinic.
“This is a brand-new initiative and something that hasn’t been done in our area, so for attorneys to step up and volunteer demonstrates their commitment to helping people in this community,” Wright said.
The clinic will operate in partnership with the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, the Clinton County Fatherhood Initiative, local volunteer attorneys and the Clinton County Domestic Relations and Juvenile courts.
All clinic clients will be screened for indigence. The clinic will be held several times a year. Attorneys interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact Wright at (937) 382-4559.