A Navy servicemember’s father suffered a severe stroke rendering him incapacitated and needed someone to make healthcare and property decisions for him. However, he had not previously designated a power of attorney nor had he signed any healthcare directives. The sailor happened to be the only family member able to handle her father’s care, but in order to assume this role, she required court-appointed guardianship over her father. To complicate matters, the sailor was soon to be deployed to Japan for two years and therefore needed the guardianship to be in place quickly. The sailor’s military legal assistance attorney analyzed whether the client could submit guardianship papers on her own and concluded that having counsel in the servicemember’s guardianship proceedings was preferred. Because her military legal assistance attorneys could not represent her in court, the ABA Military Pro Bono Project quickly referred the servicemember to an experienced pro bono civilian attorney in her area. The volunteer attorney was successful in persuading the court to appoint the sailor as her father’s guardian for healthcare matters and located a local attorney to be named guardian of his estate. In addition, this attorney covered all court costs for the servicemember and finalized the documents necessary to make the guardianship official, allowing her to make essential healthcare decisions for her father going forward.
A sailor passed away on active duty and was survived by his fiancée and their one-year old daughter. Due to the sailor’s death, the child was entitled to survivor benefits; however, until a guardianship of an estate was established for her by her mother, the sailor’s daughter was unable to receive any compensation from the Navy. Unfortunately, because the mother was not yet married to the deceased servicemember, she was ineligible for military legal assistance services and therefore required the assistance of a civilian attorney to establish guardianship of her daughter’s estate. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project was able to refer the mother to a pro bono attorney who specializes in guardianships, is a distinguished Naval veteran herself and who is dedicated to serving military families. Soon after the referral, the volunteer attorney filed a guardianship petition and arranged for the appointment of a guardian ad litem who quickly issued a report to the court. One month thereafter, the mother was appointed guardianship of her daughter’s estate and she will finally be able to receive entitled benefits on behalf of her daughter. In addition, the pro bono attorney has prepared the mother to represent herself in submitting required reports to the court going forward.
An Army servicemember stationed in Germany was contacted by his child’s mother requesting that he take physical custody of their child because she does not have a steady source of income and it would be in the child’s best interests to live with the soldier. However, the servicemember could not his bring his daughter to Germany to live with him without a court order granting primary physical custody. In addition, the local clerk of court advised the soldier that if he did not have legal representation there would likely be a one-year wait time to get a custody order issued. The servicemember’s legal assistance attorney could not represent him in court so the ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred him to a local family law attorney who was quickly able to meet with the servicemember, research procedural guidelines, prepare the custody petition and work with the court to facilitate proper service of the petition. Within one month of the attorney referral, the court issued the soldier an order giving him full custody of his daughter and, within a week of the order, the soldier was scheduled to return to Germany with his daughter. In addition to physical custody, the soldier can now provide his daughter with the military healthcare, schooling and financial support she so desperately needed.
A Marine, upon performing a routine credit check, found that a default judgment had been entered against him while he was on active duty at a military school, having just returned from a twelve-month deployment to Iraq. The soldier discovered that his ex-wife had extended a lease in his name without his consent and the landlord had initiated an eviction action against him for over $10,000. He was never properly served. Furthermore, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the plaintiffs filed a false affidavit with the court claiming that the Marine was not on active duty, therefore denying the servicemember his SCRA protections against default orders. The soldier needed legal assistance to vacate the default judgment. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred him to a dedicated and experienced team of pro bono attorneys. The volunteer attorneys interviewed the soldier, drafted and filed an affidavit and two separate motions with supporting documents, and appeared in multiple hearings on the servicemember’s behalf. As a result of the volunteer attorneys’ assistance, the default judgment was set aside and the entire matter was dismissed against the servicemember.
While an Army servicemember was stationed in Hawaii, a Virginia furniture company from which he made prior purchases refused to lower an interest rate and obtained a default order in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides an interest rate limitation opportunity and protections against default orders for active-duty servicemembers. The furniture company had ignored several legal assistance attorneys’ warnings that they were violating the SCRA and proceeded to collect on the default judgment by freezing the soldier’s bank account, withdrawing funds from his monthly household budget and initiating garnishment actions against the servicemember. Military attorneys generally are not permitted to represent soldiers in state court, and the soldier was struggling to work with the court to simply obtain his case documents. As a result, the servicemember was facing a scheduled court hearing for which he could not access his documents, was unable to appear personally because he was stationed thousands of miles away, and could not find an attorney to appear on his behalf.
The hearing date was quickly approaching so the servicemember’s military attorney referred him to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project. Within only one week of the referral, the Project was able to secure representation for the soldier with a local pro bono attorney who had been actively involved in the ABA’s efforts to assist military personnel and veterans. This volunteer attorney was quickly able to obtain a favorable settlement for the soldier by which the furniture company agreed to reduce the soldier’s interest rate below the SCRA’s requirement. In addition to this positive result for the soldier, the company agreed to change its business practices going forward to comply with the SCRA for their servicemember customers.
Dedicated Pro Bono Attorney Helps Airman Adopt Step-Children With Ailing Mother, Saving Them From Abusive Father
An Air Force servicemember’s spouse had two children from a previous marriage that the servicemember was seeking to adopt because the biological father was incarcerated with a history of alcohol, drug abuse and domestic violence. In addition, the soldier’s spouse—the biological mother—had been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer. The biological father did not regularly visit with the children, did not pay regular child support and was arrested for a domestic disturbance the last time the children visited with him. The servicemember, on the other hand, had been actively involved in the children’s lives, had been married to the children’s mother, the custodial parent, for almost two years. It was therefore clear that it was in the children’s best interest for the soldier to adopt them, especially given his spouse’s declining health. The soldier’s military legal assistance attorney was concerned that the soldier was not capable of representing himself, so she referred the soldier to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, which assigned the servicemember to an experienced and dedicated pro bono attorney. The volunteer attorney retained a social worker to conduct a pre-adoptive study and reported that the social worker was so moved by this wonderful family that she was quickly able to submit a comprehensive report at a significantly reduced rate. In the end, the pro bono attorney successfully procured the step-parent adoption of the soldier’s two stepchildren, the termination of the biological father’s parental rights, and the creation of new birth certificates that list the servicemember as the children’s new father.
A sailor was in military training when, unbeknownst to him, the sailor’s child was removed from the mother’s care due to the mother’s substance abuse and placed with an elderly relative who subsequently would not allow him any access to the child. The servicemember believed that it would be in the best interest of the child for him to gain custody, or at the very least, have visitation and provide child support. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the sailor to a volunteer attorney who, by dedicating significant pro bono time to this sailor, was able to negotiate and enter a stipulation awarding the servicemember joint custody which provides him with visitation rights and a payment plan for child support. The sailor reports that he is successfully exercising his visitation time with his child.