An innovative divorce clinic at the Toledo Bar Association (TBA) brings together volunteer attorneys, paralegals, law students, and TBA staff to help hundreds of low-income Lucas County residents file for divorce.

The Pro Se Divorce Clinic, established in 1994 and the first of its kind in the state of Ohio, operates through a do-it-yourself, classroom-style divorce workshop every month at the Domestic Relations Court in Lucas County, where volunteer attorneys walk clients through the entire process and explain all the necessary forms.

Once a client files for divorce, TBA staff goes a step further, making themselves available to answer questions or to help fill out additional paperwork. This extensive follow-up is unique to TBA’s clinic model, and it helps ensure clients can successfully file and complete the process begun at the clinic.

“The divorce process can be very challenging for a pro se litigant to understand,” said Maggie Humphrey, director of pro bono and community engagement at the TBA. “We wanted to find a model that would help meet the need in a way that could be sustainable, so doing it through a classroom setting not only allows us to do more with fewer attorneys, but also helps clients achieve their goals.”

The clinic fills a niche need in that it targets clients who aren’t seeking alimony and don’t have children, real estate, or joint assets. For these clients, a divorce can be deeply transformative and liberating. This year, the clinic is on track to assist 120 such Ohioans.

“These are folks who may not fall into the priority categories for other programs but are essentially living in poverty and also are in great need of assistance,” Humphrey said. “Our clinic allows clients to move forward and start fresh outside often unhealthy or abusive relationships.”

The TBA was one of 19 nonprofit legal service providers that recently received funding from the Foundation. The TBA will use the resources to continue to support the Pro Se Divorce Clinic, ensuring that more low-income Ohioans receive help.

“We thought this was a great fit for what the Foundation was looking for,” Humphrey said. “We were excited to get some outside funding and support to continue this work.”

The Toledo Bar Association Pro Bono Legal Services Program connects volunteer attorneys with low-income individuals in a variety of legal issues. For more information and to volunteer, visit the TBA’s website.