Courts Administration Office Public Information Office
PINE BELT, Mississippi (WDAM) – Forty-four people in south-central Mississippi recently received legal guardianship help so children can go to school and receive health benefits.
Six attorneys volunteered their time to reach residents living in the Chancery Court’s 13th District, including those in Covington, Jefferson Davis and Smith counties.
Services have also been extended to eligible residents of the other two counties in the district, Simpson and Lawrence counties.
Clerks of the 13th District Chancery have waived fees for households with annual incomes below $24,000. The clerks or their deputies from the five counties were at the clinic to file documents.
“It’s to help take care of the children.” said Chancellor Gerald Martin.
The clinic saw grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts, cousins and other family members who had fostered children whose parents were deceased, absent or unable to care for of them. The children ranged from babies to teenagers.
“A lot of grandparents are now raising their grandchildren with little or no help from parents,” said lawyer Wesley Broadhead of Mendenhall. “This clinic provides legal support for guardians to educate children in the public school system.”
Wesla Sullivan of Mendenhall is a Jefferson Davis County Juvenile Court adjudicator and a Simpson County School Board attorney.
Sullivan said she can vouch for the role a legal guardian can play in a child’s life.
“I see the need for guardianships to help place these children in stable homes and better environments to improve their well-being and education,” Sullivan said.
A young woman seeking guardianship of two of her teenage cousins has explained their situation during a hearing before Chancellor David Shoemake.
She and her family have been caring for the children for three years. One of the children has a serious illness that requires weekly visits to specialists in Jackson.
“We love them,” she told Judge Shoemake.
Outside the courthouse, with legal documents in hand, she said: ‘It’s a happy ending to a very sad and traumatic thing. It is an answered prayer.
She is paying for the help she received years ago.
“I was placed in foster care myself,” she says. “Those who mobilized, they didn’t have to do what they did. They did it out of love.
The Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and the 13th Chancery Court organized and staffed the clinic.
The MVLP and the Access to Justice Commission have scheduled similar free legal clinics for guardianship and other family law matters in other areas of the state.
For more information, see the schedules at these links: https://www.cognitoforms.com/MVLP1/SelfRepresentationLegalClinic and https://www.courts.ms.gov/Legal/CivilLegal.php.
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