Helen M. Reinsch Legal Clinic
The Helen M. Reinsch Legal Clinic, named for a longtime and greatly admired Shelter From The Storm board member and generous contributor, pictured at right, has provided services to more than 60 clients this year. Most of these women received representation in court actions for restraining orders. We have succeeded in obtaining restraining orders for most of our clients. We have also represented clients in contested child custody matters and actions for child support. Other clients received legal advice and papers to file on an in pro per basis.
The Legal Clinic continues to grow and offers services to community clients when appropriate, as well as residents of the Emergency Shelter and the Long-Term Transitional Housing program. We are able to provide service all the way from obtaining an initial temporary restraining order to final dissolution of the marriage.
Work at the Legal Clinic is particularly rewarding because we can obtain concrete, meaningful results in most cases. In one typical matter, we were able to help a Spanishspeaking immigrant get custody of her daughter after her husband had taken the child to Illinois. That case was particularly satisfying because the husband had sufficient money to hire an attorney in Illinois, an attorney in California, and a private investigator. He also attempted to have the case heard in Illinois, a move that would have prevented our client from having any opportunity to be heard in court.
In that case we convinced the California Commissioner and the Illinois judge to have the child returned here to her motherís custody and to conduct the proceedings in California. We were also able to obtain a restraining order. As a consequence, our client was able to apply for protection from deportation proceedings under the Violence Against Women Act, and remain in the United States even though her husband was trying to have her deported.
Most of our cases involve child custody issues and a good deal of our legal work involves making sure that the Commissioners who hear these cases take the protection of the children seriously. Although California law creates a presumption that the protected party should get custody of any children, the law also presumes that liberal visitation is in the childís best interest. We endeavor to document potential risks to the children and have been very successful in getting orders for supervised visitation.