Finding your way through the unknown of the American legal system can be overwhelming at times. For many of Empower Yolo’s clients, who are often also recovering from sexual assault, human trafficking or domestic violence, understanding their rights within the legal system can be challenging. To assist these clients in understanding their rights and supporting them through the legal system, Empower Yolo has a legal department staffed with legal advocates and volunteer attorneys.
Empower Yolo’s Family Law Legal Clinic (“the clinic”) was founded by attorney Brian Pakpour of Pakpour Banks to fill a significant void in Yolo County. According to Pakpour, “victims of domestic violence often have family law cases and they want to move on, but are tied to the abuser by marriage even though they have successfully separated from the abuser.”
“The clinic offers victims of domestic violence free legal advice, completed court forms and court preparation, along with the advocacy that Empower Yolo has always provided,” says Pakpour; and “at the end of the day clients become empowered,” Pakpour adds.
Initially, the clinic started seeing clients only twice a month, but with more attorneys generously volunteering their time the clinic is available every Thursday to assist clients with all family law issues including divorce, custody and guardianship. Currently, Pakpour; Christopher Dietrich of Kopper, Morgan & Dietrich; Keith Banks of the Law Offices of Pakpour Banks; and Sherine Pahlavan of the Law Office of Sherine Pahlavan; generously donate many pro bono hours to help Empower Yolo clients. The clinic attorneys each spend one afternoon a month volunteering their time and often book follow-up appointments with the clients at their offices, free of charge.
John E.B. Myers, Professor, McGeorge School of Law has also assisted Empower Yolo clients pro bono for many years. “He works tirelessly representing clients in custody, divorce, guardianship, child support and restraining order cases. His passion and dedication representing Empower Yolo’s clients is incredible,” says Jaime Garfied-Imus, Empower Yolo’s Director of Legal Services.
Yolo County Child Support Services also partners with Empower Yolo during the clinics where a representative is available to answer questions and open cases. One of the primary reasons given by victims of domestic violence for staying with, or returning to, an abusive partner is financial dependence. “More than 90% of women with current or former abusive partners want to pursue child support if they can do so safely and confidentially. The intersection with the child support program is clear,” says Garfied-Imus.
In addition to family law clinic services, Empower Yolo’s legal department provides daily Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinics throughout Yolo County in Davis, Winters, Woodland and West Sacramento. After the restraining order application is complete advocates file it for the client and arrange for service. For locations and times visit empoweryolo.org or call the crisis line: (530) 662-1133.
Empower Yolo also assists with civil harassment and elder abuse restraining orders by appointment. To make an appointment, call (530) 661-6336.
Empower Yolo’s Legal Advocates provide support and accompaniment to domestic violence survivors in both family and criminal court. In 2019, Empower Yolo’s legal department provided 296 victims of domestic violence restraining order assistance.
Since shelter in place was enacted in the spring due to COVID, Empower Yolo’s legal department has been busier than ever because home is not safe if you are in an abusive relationship. From April 1 – September 30, 2020 the legal department provided 198 clients support with 286 protection orders. Due to the pandemic, the number of restraining orders issued during this six-month period nearly matches the total number that was issued in all of 2019.
Protection orders were for domestic violence/dating violence, child sexual abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault or stalking.
The Legal Advocates also work with local law enforcement agencies – including Woodland, Davis, Winters, and West Sacramento police departments, and Yolo County Sheriff’s Office – as Domestic Violence Response Team Advocates (DVRTs), providing crisis intervention and resources to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, elder abuse, and human trafficking. In addition, they assist with ‘safe at home’ applications, housing and employment advocacy, victim compensation applications, and attorney referrals.
Empower Yolo’s legal department goes above and beyond to ensure clients are assisted throughout the legal process. The community can support the legal needs of Empower Yolo’s clients by donating to Empower Yolo’s legal department. Advocacy for each restraining order costs approximately $126. For more info or to donate visit: empoweryolo.org.
For more information on Empower Yolo’s legal services contact Jaime Garfield-Imus at [email protected], or call (530) 661-6336.