Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Lauds Free Legal Hotline for Parents...

Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Lauds Free Legal Hotline for Parents Who Don’t Have Custody of Their Children; Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Operates Hotline in English and Spanish



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Dallas, TX–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–November 17, 2005–The Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation, the largest state-based funder of legal aid in Texas, today joined Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas for a press conference in Dallas to announce the availability of a legal hotline that helps non-custodial parents actively participate in their children’s lives.

The Statewide Access and Visitation Hotline, operated by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas on behalf of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, provides parental education, legal information and referrals to non-custodial parents in Texas. Common legal issues addressed by Hotline attorneys include visitation and custody, paternity establishment, and child support. Hotline attorneys can offer assistance such as explaining complicated legal documents, helping callers fill out court forms, and offering guidance in modifying existing agreements. The Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation provides funding for two of the Hotline’s attorneys.

The Statewide Access and Visitation Hotline enables parents to have stronger, healthier relationships with their children, which benefits both the parents and the children. Studies show that children who have access to both parents tend to do better in school, have more friends and have fewer behavioral problems than children who have access to only one parent.

Parents can call the Hotline toll-free at 1-866-292-4636. Assistance is provided in English and Spanish. The Hotline is staffed by six attorneys who answer calls from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. In addition to phone support, callers are mailed brochures, legal forms and other pertinent information.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson praised the Hotline as a valuable tool for Texas parents.

“Many non-custodial parents may not be aware of their parental rights. Or worse, they might forfeit those rights simply because of a lack of knowledge of the legal system,” Hankinson said. “The Hotline is a resource they can turn to for help.”

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas created and maintains a Web site at http://www.TXAccess.org in both English and Spanish as a supplement to the Hotline. The site offers extensive information about non-custodial parents’ rights, as well as court forms and other resources.

Since Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas began operating the Statewide Access and Visitation Hotline in 2003, more than 26,000 Texas parents have been assisted with their custody and visitation questions.

At the press conference, Cornelia Boyea, managing attorney for Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and director of the Hotline, spoke of the importance of ensuring that the rights of non-custodial parents are protected and that children are afforded the opportunity to have access to both parents.

“We’ve all heard the stories of the ‘deadbeat dad’ or the ‘absentee mom.’ But we are here today to talk about the other side of the story – the parents who don’t have primary custody, but who want to do the right thing, who want to be there for their children.

“The Statewide Access and Visitation Hotline empowers non-custodial parents to have a meaningful role in their children’s lives.”

This year, the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation granted Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas $60,000 to add two attorneys to the Statewide Access and Visitation Hotline. Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas officials expect call volume to increase significantly due to heightened publicity efforts.

The Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation (http://www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the largest state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 99,000 Texans each year.

Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Lauds Free Legal Hotline for Parents Who Don’t Have Custody of Their Children; Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Operates Hotline in English and Spanish