Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 12

FEATURE
but it can also lead to dire consequences. "They don't know what the
rules are. They don't know how and what laws apply to their situation
and what facts are relevant. That would be like entering a baseball
stadium and being told to play without ever having seen the game
played," Flagg says.
Nanini says families that end up in the Domestic Relations Branch are
often facing the biggest crisis they have ever known. "Having a lawyer
standing with them in court takes a huge burden off their shoulders and
lets them focus on what is most important to them in that moment -
preserving their family," she says.
During the pandemic, stress from isolation, economic uncertainty, virtual
learning, and health issues can strain any family. But when there's already
inflamed tension such as child custody or marital issues, that friction can
intensify to dangerous levels. An April 2020 United Nations Population
Fund report suggests that three months of quarantine results in a 20
percent rise in intimate partner violence (IPV) throughout the world. This
means at least 15 million additional cases of IPV will occur as a result of
shelter-in-place orders.
The Legal Aid Society brings to FLAN a robust family practice that
handles many domestic violence cases through its various in-house and
court-based projects. "Pre-COVID-19, those projects were in the court
building to assist people with domestic violence cases as well as child
support cases," says Julia Eve Preston, senior staff attorney at Legal Aid.
"We have different forms of general intake at Legal Aid where people
can walk in seeking assistance with any kind of matter, or they can
apply online."
Preston says Legal Aid's work with FLAN is focused on custody matters,
including helping clients fill out the initial paperwork to start custody
cases, drafting pleadings, filing emergency motions to modify custody
orders, and representing litigants in emergency remote hearings.
Gibson represented James (last name withheld to protect his privacy) in
a child custody case that had lasted four years. James had worked with
several other lawyers before reaching out to DC Affordable Law Firm, but
he claims that those attorneys failed to file certain paperwork with the
court on his behalf. At that time, he was granted visitation of his children
every other week. With Gibson's assistance, James gained full custody
of his children.

"

Throughout the three months of working with Gibson, James says that
Gibson communicated with him regularly over the phone or through

DC Affordable Law Firm

We saw a lot of cases about
individuals violating court orders,
oftentimes because they didn't
understand how the orders played
out with the shelter-in-place
mandate.
FRANCESCA GIBSON
DC Affordable Law Firm

12

WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

text messaging to ensure that all his court documents were completed
and filed. "Communication was good," he says. "She proceeded with
all the paperwork that was needed to be given to the judge. When the
judge denied some of my motions, she filed other motions until we won
my case."

UNPRECEDENTED CUSTODY CHALLENGES
Because of the shelter-in-place order in the District, many families experienced unprecedented challenges regarding custody arrangements.
"There have been a lot of transportation issues that families have experienced," Gibson says. "We saw a lot of cases about individuals violating
court orders, oftentimes because they didn't understand how the orders
played out with the shelter-in-place mandate. They wanted to protect
their families from added exposure to COVID-19. So, we drafted a lot of
motions for contempt and motions to modify. I have worked with at
least a couple of families where we drafted motions to modify the
exchange location."
FLAN attorneys also help clients resolve cases without court inter---vention.
One of Nanini's clients sought help with custody visitation issues
following closure of the court's supervised visitation center due to
COVID-19. Many families used the center to hand off children or for
supervised visitation, and its immediate closure disrupted several
custody arrangements. Nanini and the client talked through different
negotiation strategies, as well as the legal path the client would need
to take if no agreement were reached.
Pre-pandemic, many of these exchanges happened at school, which
helped to reduce acrimonious interactions between the parties. "With
school not being an option, the family decided that they were just going
to find a public place to exchange the children. Well, that did not work
given the extreme nature of the violence in the relationship. So, we were
able to file a motion. The emergency hearing was granted, and the court
granted our motion. The parties were able to exchange the children at one
of the police precincts, which makes it safer for everyone," Gibson says.
The pandemic has exposed the economic disparities in American
society, including access to technology and transportation, that can also
impact the exchange of children in custody cases. Gibson recalls one
client who was reluctant to use public transportation because of the risk
of COVID-19. Another option for the client was ridesharing, but that was
cost-prohibitive. "So we helped her file a motion for a modification in the
custody exchange to make it more conducive to her situation. We have
seen the pandemic impact the lives of our clients in many different
ways," Gibson says.
FLAN also handles third-party custody cases where the parents are
unable to care for their children for various reasons. "There might be
a death or mental health concerns; the parents might be incarcerated
or unavailable for another reason," says the Pro Bono Center's Nanini.
"There also might be child abuse or child neglect involved."
In those cases, FLAN provides limited-scope legal representation to
clients. "Our goal is always to make sure that our clients' immediate
needs are met and that we can jumpstart their case. If they have a court
hearing the same day or next day, we'll enter an appearance. If clients
need full representation, which a lot of clients do because family law
cases can be long and unpredictable, we provide pro bono referrals
for full representation," says Nanini.



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Family Law Assistance Network feature
An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Qualified Immunity feature
Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Family Law Assistance Network feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Qualified Immunity feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 54
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 57
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 58
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 59
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 60
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 61
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 62
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 63
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 64
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 65
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 66
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 67
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover4
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