Free family law clinics set for June in northeast Mississippi

May 9, 2018

Free family law clinics are scheduled in June in Alcorn, Itawamba and Lee counties.

Low-income people who need help with adoptions, child support, custody, modification, visitation, guardianships, irreconcilable differences divorces, emancipations and name changes may be eligible for legal assistance at one of the free clinics scheduled by the First Chancery Court District.

Clinic dates in June are:

• June 5, 3 to 6 p.m. in Corinth at the Alcorn County Chancery Building, 600 East Waldron Street;
• June 22, 2 to 5 p.m. in Fulton at the Itawamba County Courthouse, 201 West Main Street;
• June 27, 3 to 7 p.m. in Tupelo at the Lee County Justice Center, 200 West Jefferson Street. A second clinic will be held in Tupelo on Nov. 6.

The Mississippi Legislature declared June as Access to Justice Month, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. asked all chancery courts to offer free family law clinics to aid low-income people in resolving family law issues. All 20 of the state’s chancery court districts have scheduled pro se clinics throughout the summer and fall.

This link includes the schedule of pro se clinics throughout the state from June through November: Some clinics in other areas of the state will offer only guardianship assistance. Check each clinic listing for the services offered.

Additional free family law clinics are scheduled from August through November in the First Chancery Court District. The schedule includes:

• Aug. 22, 3 to 6 p.m., Aberdeen, Monroe County Chancery Building, 201 West Commerce Street;
• Sept. 13, 3 to 6 p.m., Booneville, Prentiss County Courthouse, 100 North Main Street;
• Sept. 25, 4 to 7 p.m., Pontotoc, Pontotoc County Chancery Courthouse, 34 South Liberty Street;
• Oct. 29, 3 to 7 p.m., Iuka, Tishomingo County Courthouse, 1008 Battleground Drive;
• Nov. 6, 3 to 7 p.m., Tupelo, Lee County Justice Center, 200 West Jefferson Street.

The Union County Chancery Court got an early start, holding its family law clinic April 30 in New Albany.

People seeking legal assistance must register in advance and be screened for eligibility based on income. Registration and screening will be done by the Family Resource Center. Call 662-638-6999.

Eligibility to attend a clinic is limited to people whose income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, that would be an annual income of $24,280 or less for an individual; an annual income of $32,920 or less for a two-person household; $41,560 or less for a family of three; or $50,200 or less for a family of four, based on the 2018 federal poverty guidelines of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Senior Chancellor Jacqueline Mask of Tupelo, co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission, implemented the clinics in 2014, and the effort in the First Chancery District grew to include a free family law clinic held annually in every county in the district. It was the seed that became a statewide effort.

Chief Justice Waller said, “Judge Mask is to be commended for her leadership in facilitating the work to establish and continue periodic pro se days.”

Chancellor Mask said, “These are very valuable opportunities for those who are unable to afford an attorney. They can obtain free of charge the legal information they need to pursue the remedies provided by law.”

“These sessions are coordinated by and conducted by the local attorneys in each county, and their leadership has been exemplary. Because of their interest in giving back to their communities, these clinics have been conducted annually in every county in the district,” Judge Mask said.

Local attorneys will give legal advice and assist participants in preparing documents. The attorneys will explain court proceedings, provide legal information and answer questions. Law students may assist with interviewing clients and preparing documents. If the matters are not complicated and can be handled on the spot, Judge Mask will be available to hear matters and sign court orders. Court hearings may be scheduled for future dates in some cases. The attorneys are not obligated to provide extended legal representation or attend future court hearings. The expectation is that individuals will be given adequate information to be able to represent themselves in court.

The First District family law clinics are a collaborative effort of the Access to Justice Commission, the First Chancery Court District, local bar associations and the Pro Bono Initiative of the University of Mississippi School of Law.

For more information, contact Access to Justice Commission Executive Director Nicole McLaughlin at 601-960-9581 or