Fall 2017: Pro Bono Spotlight SERV

By Gayle Stone-Turesky

In 2012, Verrill Dana LLP and the Senior Partners for Justice Project responded to an urgent need for assistance with the large population of pro se litigants at the Suffolk Probate and Family Court and helped to create the SERV (Settlement and Early Resolution Volunteers) Project. The increase in the number of unrepresented litigants caused long delays and created undue hardships for these largely impoverished individuals. They typically suffered through repeated court appearances and the inevitable loss of pay. The SERV Project has been able to interrupt this cycle and help these litigants resolve their conflicts, often on their first visit to court.

SERV has helped the Court clear cases from their docket, while still insuring that the litigants have access to justice. SERV handles divorces, separate support and paternity actions, complaints for custody and visitation, and complaints for modification involving any of these issues. SERV has assisted with settling over 300 cases per year, while only operating about 6 days per month. From January to June of 2017, SERV has a sixty-five (65%) percent rate of settlement.

Due to significant staff and funding cuts, the Court continues to need more help to meet the needs of its high volume of domestic cases. SERV’s goal is to increase the number of days per month that volunteering family law practitioners are present in the Court room assisting pro-se litigants. To expand this Project, SERV must have more experienced family law practitioners, with conciliation or mediation training, who are willing to volunteer their time. The time commitment is usually 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. If every family law practitioner volunteered just one day each year, SERV would be able to expand its program.

The Family Law Section will be sponsoring a conciliation training in early 2018. The exact date of the training will be announced. We encourage all family law attorneys to take this training and to volunteer your time to this very worthy and important project.

Please contact Gayle Stone-Turesky, 617-523-4567 or email gstone-turesky@sscattorneys.com or Vickie Rothbaum, 781-820-0082, or email rothbaumv@gmail.com if you are interested in volunteering.