Programs

Programs

Over the last 50 years, CVLS has built a strong relationship with Chicago’s court system and judges. Judges in Probate, Chancery and Domestic Relations appoint CVLS to represent parties in complex litigation and to serve as guardian ad litem for children or disabled adults.

These cases demand special training and close, one-on-one supervision from CVLS staff attorneys.

Domestic Relations Child Representative

CVLS is appointed by Domestic Relations and Parentage judges to serve as child’s representative when parents cannot afford attorneys. As a child rep, you investigate the issues and parties, negotiate with the parties, enlist and recommend outside services when appropriate and advocate for the child in and out of court. These children, the subject of difficult, often bitter disputes in court, need advocates and the Court needs an independent, objective, experienced attorney to help it navigate conflicting versions of the children’s best interests.

Guardian Ad Litem For Minors

CVLS accepts appointments from the Circuit Court of Cook County to serve as GAL for children in contested or problematic guardianship cases. As the child’s GAL, trained volunteer attorneys investigate the issues and parties, report to the court on the child’s best interests, and represent the child throughout the case. The attorney serves as the child’s independent pro bono legal counsel, advocating in and out of the court on behalf of the child’s best interests. Investigating all aspects of what often amounts to an unfavorable or even abusive environment, our volunteer GALs provide and objective recommendation to the court as to the safest, most supportive environment for the child.

Guardian Ad Litem For Adults

Appointed by Probate Court judges, GALs serve the best interests of adults who are the subject of adult guardianship cases. Some Adult GAL cases involve an initial petition for guardianship in which the Respondent is alleged to be unable to make personal or financial decisions. Other Adult GAL cases involve an investigation regarding the best interests of persons already adjudicated as disabled.

A guardianship case handled by a pro bono GAL typically involves an adult with developmental or age-related disabilities or someone with mental illness. The adult may be living with family or in a group home or a nursing home. These individuals have limited or no assets and/or income.

Volunteer GALs meet with the adult wherever they reside, review medical reports, interview health care personnel, facilitate negotiations, provide a written report and recommendation to the court and in some cases advocate for that recommendation at a hearing.

Access to Justice

CVLS is appointed by judges to represent low-income individuals representing themselves in Cook County Chancery Court litigation, such as mortgage foreclosure defense litigation, including mortgage fraud and predatory lending; the appeal of administrative decisions; declaratory judgments and injunctions. Interesting and often complex, Chancery Court litigation offers volunteers excellent and meaningful litigation experience.

Community Legal Clinics

Community organizations and churches host CVLS legal clinics around the city. Volunteers meet with potential clients for a few hours after work or on a weekend every few months, and provide follow up services as necessary. Each clinic is staffed by a veteran volunteer, aided by CVLS’ full-time clinic coordinator.

Some of CVLS’ clinics are staffed exclusively by attorneys and paralegals from one law firm. Firms that “adopt” clinics decide the types of cases their attorneys will handle and set their own schedules. Their attorneys get excellent, wide-ranging experience and clients get expert legal assistance. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Panel Referral Program

If you’d rather do your pro bono exclusively from your office, don’t worry. CVLS staff will find the perfect case for you. All you have to do is tell us which case types you want and go online to “shop” for your own pro bono opportunity. These opportunities are listed by case type and level of complexity-simple, intermediate and expert. Pick a case and you’ll get complete information about it, including relevant documents, along with useful training materials.

Case Work Involves:

  • Adoption
  • Bankruptcy
  • Collection defense and consumer issues
  • Family law, including divorce, parentage, custody, visitation and child support
  • Eviction, (representing a tenant or low income landlord)
  • Probate, including disabled adult guardianship, advance directive and small estates
  • Tort defense

Probate Court Assistance Project

Volunteers provide pro bono representation to low-income individuals referred to CVLS by Probate judges. Many of these pro se petitioners have filed a decedent's estate but can't proceed on their own. Other clients get to CVLS when a relative dies owning a home and family members need help handling the real estate. Our volunteer attorneys litigate estate cases or find extra-judicial solutions in order to marshal family assets, saving time and headaches for everyone, including the clients and the court.