NYLAG’s Matrimonial and Family Law Unit (FLU) strives to enhance the safety, well-being and stability of domestic violence victims and their children by improving their access to the civil and social justice systems, and to prepare a new generation of lawyers to represent these clients. Over the past year, FLU has seen a significant rise in its domestic violence cases because of the economic stress families are encountering during the current recession.

In one successful case, NYLAG attorneys Antoinette Delruelle and Kira Schettino won a contested divorce case involving a low-income, domestic violence victim. NYLAG is one of the few legal aid organizations that represents clients in contested divorces.

Ms. U, an immigrant, moved to the U.S. and married, only to find herself trapped in a violent relationship soon thereafter. She and her son endured physical, psychological and emotional abuse. With NYLAG’s help, Ms. U filed for, and was eventually granted, legal permanent residency under the Violence Against Women Act. She later filed for divorce, which her batterer contested. After a fiveday trial in Manhattan Supreme Court, Ms. U’s divorce, and therefore a safe and independent lifestyle, was granted.

To bolster NYLAG’s capacity to serve clients with domestic violence issues, FLU mentors pro bono attorneys from New York’s top law firms. In March, Valerie Cohen, an Associate at O’Melveny and Myers, LLP, secured an important victory for, Ms. K, a victim of domestic violence.

Ms. K is an elderly woman who has both hearing and physical disabilities. She came to NYLAG because she needed representation to defend against an order of protection filed against her in retaliation by her abuser. With supervision from FLU attorney Kirsten Brodsky, Ms. Cohen was successful in having this case against Ms. K dismissed. Poverty causes domestic violence and domestic violence causes poverty. FLU’s experienced advocates are trained to deal with the complexities of family law to improve the lives of DV victims.