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Since 1993, inMotion has helped thousands of women free themselves from abusive relationships, stay in their homes and win the financial support to which they--and their children--are legally entitled. Our mission is to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of women--low-income, under-served, abused--by offering them legal services designed to foster equal access to justice and an empowered approach to life. We fulfill our mission by providing free, quality services, primarily in the areas of matrimonial, family and immigration law, in a way that acknowledges mutual respect, encourages personal growth, and nurtures individual and collective strength. Informed by this work, inMotion promotes policies that make our society more responsive to the legal issues confronting the women we serve.
For 20 years, inMotion has confronted the challenging needs of families in crisis by providing free legal services to low-income women and children in New York City, helping thousands of women free themselves from abusive relationships, stay in their homes and win the financial support to which they--and their children--are legally entitled.
All of our clients live in poverty and most face violence at home and threats to their children’s wellbeing, with the financial pressures of the economic recession putting even more women and children at risk for physical abuse. Unemployment and rising costs are further straining their financial stability. The legal needs of the women we serve are immediate and urgent, and theydeserve competent legal representation regardless of their ability to pay. With barely enough money for life’s basic necessities, hiring an attorney is not an option.
Our services are designed to address the unique needs of women who are victims of domestic violence. We also reach out to immigrant women who are isolated by language and cultural barriers. The women and children served by inMotion reside in all five boroughs of New York City:
- 34% live in the Bronx, the City’s poorest borough and the poorest urban county in the U.S.
- 29% live in Queens, the borough with the highest concentration of immigrants
- 19% live in Brooklyn, the City’s most populous borough, with the highest concentration of people living in poverty in New York State
- 49% are Latina, 27% are African-American and 13% are Asian or a member of another minority group
- 35% of our clients speak a language other than English--1 out of every 4 women we serve cannot access the legal system without an interpreter
While these women seek legal help for a variety of reasons, they share one overarching problem: they lack the financial resources to retain a skilled lawyer to represent them in critical areas of the law. For women seeking protection from batterers, or struggling to retain custody of their children, not having a lawyer has a dramatic impact on their lives. The overwhelming majority of the women who go to Family Court proceed without an attorney. With alarming frequency, these women forfeit their legal rightsdue to lack of representation, rather than on the merits of their petitions. These mothers are living at the fringes. Poverty puts them and their children at even greater risk.
The Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York (Task Force) in its 2012 report to Chief Judge Lippman stated:
"... there is an unacceptable crisis of the unrepresented in the courts of New York State. Each year, more than 2.3 million low-income New Yorkers must navigate the complexities of the State’s civil justice system without the assistance of counsel in disputes over the most basic necessities of life."
The Task Force report further states that "at best only 20 percent of the legal needs of low-income New Yorkers are currently being met." This severe shortage of civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers takes its hardest toll on women. Poor, single-parent families in New York City are overwhelmingly headed by women. Seventy-two percent of our clients are mothers and most are, or will become, the head of their family’s household. In addition, 79% of our clients are victims of domestic violence. Many women are entitled to legal relief that would help them to free themselves and their children from abuse and stabilize their families, but they are often unaware that such relief exists and are unable to access this relief without legal representation.
The ability to address their legal issues has a profound effect--indeed, sometimes a life-saving effect--on their and their families’ quality of life. Our services enable women to resolve the legal crises that prevent them from moving forward into more stable and productive lives. Our objective is to ensure that all women who contact inMotion obtain essential legal protections for themselves and their children:
- Orders of protection against abusive husbands and fathers
- Court orders requiring batterers to move out of the home so that abused women and their children can live without fear and can hold onto scarce, affordable housing
- Divorce judgments mandating safe visitation arrangements, providing children with essential health insurance and women with their fair share of the marital assets
- Court orders giving custody to caring mothers and requiring child support payments from fathers who are shirking their responsibilities
- Legal residency for victims of domestic violence without relying on the sponsorship of an abusive husband and for victims of other gender-based crimes who assist in the prosecution of their assaulters
InMotion’s experienced staff attorneys provide intensive training and mentoring to volunteer attorneys from more than 80 law firms and corporations so that they can address, through our legal and law enforcement systems, the most basic safety concerns of families in crisis. In addition, forensic accounting experts and investigators from several firms assist volunteer legal teams with compiling and analyzing the documentation necessary to obtain fair divisions of marital assets and support orders for our clients.
InMotion conducts year-round live trainings for volunteer lawyers in the relevant substantive areas of the law, and these trainings are available to volunteers via video streaming. Advanced level and more specialized trainings are also offered. Volunteers receive detailed manuals containing case law and sample documents, available both in print and digitally. InMotion is accredited to provide Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit for its live and video trainings, as well as for the pro bono hours worked on matters we refer. All of our trainings focus on the impact domestic violence has on the lives of survivors and the challenges faced by immigrants.
The volunteers working on each matter placed by inMotion are assigned an inMotion staff attorney to mentor them throughout the course of the representation. InMotion mentors are available to strategize, answer substantive and procedural questions, review documents before they are filed and provide referrals to social and other services when necessary. Our staff attorneys conduct tailored question and answer sessions at firms so that volunteers can have in-person access to our legal staff. In addition to the phone and email backup support that is central to our mentoring support, having the opportunity to communicate with our staff attorneys in a face-to-face setting further enhances the success rates of our volunteers, as well as the personal satisfaction they enjoy.
By focusing the efforts of our legal staff on training and mentoring the pro bono attorneys working on referred matters, rather than directly representing clients, inMotion leverages the capacity of its legal staff and greatly increases the services it delivers and the women and children who receive legal assistance. Armed with over 110 years of collective legal experience, our small legal staff recruited, trained and mentored over 2,700 pro bono lawyers, paralegals and law students last year. Together, they provided direct representation and/or legal advice and assistance to 6,500 women and children.
With its experienced staff, long history of providing direct representation through pro bono attorneys and leadership role in the public dialogue and policy-making on issues affecting our clients, inMotion has a proven track record of providing expert training and mentoring for pro bono attorneys and delivering quality legal services to women in need of assistance in family matters.
Our staff currently totals 34 employees and our legal team totals 18 (a senior director, 11 staff attorneys, one manager and five paralegals). Fifteen members of our staff speak Spanish and our phones are answered daily in all four of our offices by Spanish-speakers. Other fluencies among our staff members include Cantonese, French, Gallego, Italian, Korean, Romanian and Russian.