How to Get Help
- Individuals seeking advocacy and/or legal services are encouraged to call the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 and 5:00pm. AVDA’s Client Advocates are available to explain legal rights, provide social services information and referrals, and to help the client to develop a Safety Plan. An individual experiencing family violence is strongly encouraged to make an appointment with a Client Advocate for more personalized and comprehensive discussion of safety planning and legal options. Most in-person appointments are scheduled within 72 hours of the initial call.
- Safety and stability are the overriding goals of the client intake meeting. At this time, the Client Advocate works one-on-one with the client to develop a personalized Safety and Self-Sufficiency Plan that utilizes her/his own and community resources to maximize her/his physical, emotional and material safety. The Client Advocate provides information about criminal justice and family law options and the risks/benefits the client may face when pursuing those options. The Client Advocate also gathers information and completes applications for those individuals who may be eligible for—and who wish to receive—free legal representation via AVDA’s Legal Advocacy Program.
- Within 48 hours of the initial appointment, an application for pro bono legal representation will be reviewed for eligibility. All cases that meet the minimum requirements have an equal chance of being accepted for legal representation. The Managing Attorney and program staff will evaluate prospective cases to identify problem areas that might pose a risk to the client’s success and ascertain whether the program can adequately serve the client’s needs. AVDA accepts approximately 90% of the cases reviewed, with the remaining cases referred to another non-profit agency or to private attorneys. In some cases, AVDA will suggest that the client take various steps before, or instead of, initiating a court case.
- Once a case is accepted for legal representation, the client then meets with an attorney to initiate the legal process. The purpose of this meeting is to do further fact-finding into all topics that may affect a client’s legal options and to determine what specific legal actions need to be undertaken. Shortly following this meeting, AVDA’s attorneys and legal assistants will draft the necessary legal documents, file them at the District Clerk’s Office and notify the parties of hearing dates as scheduled.
Note: According to Texas law, the minimum amount of time required to finalize a divorce is sixty days. As a practical matter, however, the overcrowded courts can process only simple, uncontested cases that quickly. Cases involving domestic violence, temporary orders, and disputes over property division and child custody routinely take months and, in rare instances, even years to finalize.
Client Advocates follow-up with all of the individuals with whom they met who have not already followed through with legal representation by calling them thirty days and ninety days after the visit. Client Advocates continue to provide crisis counseling, safety planning and other advocacy and support services.
AVDA’s attorneys and legal assistants are also in regular communication with the victim-survivor, with the goal of the attorney staying updated on changes in the client’s circumstances and needs and of keeping the client informed as to the progress of her/his case.
Agency staff and trained volunteers provide Accompaniment Services to victim-survivors who request support during court proceedings, meetings with the DA, hospital visits and/or other relevant appointments.
To schedule an appointment, please contact Barbara Urdiales, Director of Advocacy Services: