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University of Iowa News Release

 

Oct. 10, 2008

Law students help low-income Iowans file for divorce

University of Iowa law students are helping low-income Iowans take the first step in the state's do-it-yourself divorce procedure.

The law students are working with Iowa Legal Aid (ILA) and the Iowa Legal Aid Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) in a pilot project to staff three free clinics this fall. The clinics will help people who are filling out the divorce paperwork and who can't afford to pay an attorney to assist them, said Linda McGuire, associate dean for civic engagement in the UI College of Law.

The paperwork and documents are 94 pages long and can be difficult for some to understand, she said.

"The program ensures that low-income individuals have access to the court system even though they cannot afford an attorney," said McGuire. "As volunteers, our students will help low-income Iowans represent themselves in their divorce proceedings by helping people fill out the divorce forms. Volunteer attorneys will also be available to supervise the students and answer basic legal questions."

The students were recruited from the law school's Family Law courses and so are familiar with the basics of divorce law.

The first clinic was held on Oct. 1. Two other clinics are planned before the end of the year, on Oct. 22, and Nov. 12, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in courtroom 2b in the Johnson County Courthouse. Those interested must set up an appointment to attend a clinic by calling 1-800-532-1275 or 319-351-6570.

The divorce clinic was developed in part by the College of Law's Citizen Lawyer Program, a public engagement project that helps law students connect with agencies across the state that provide legal services to Iowans and practical working experience for law students.

"The Citizen Lawyer Program extends students' education beyond the classroom through community-based volunteer work, and through programs about community issues and professional skills and values," said McGuire. "The result is a two-way exchange of benefits between the state's communities and the college's students."

The clinics are held with the cooperation of the Iowa Sixth Judicial District court administrator's office.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu