Civil Legal Services

The Civil Legal Services Unit provides legal assistance in housing matters, divorce, mortgage foreclosure, unemployment insurance, bankruptcy, and re-entry.

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The Civil Legal Services Unit provides legal assistance in Buffalo and the surrounding areas to low-income members of the general public. We specialize in:

  • Mortgage-foreclosure prevention;
  • Contested matrimonial and family matters, with priority given those involving domestic violence and children;
  • Housing issues, including landlord/tenant matters, housing-code violations, discrimination, and city tax foreclosures;
  • Unemployment hearings and employment discrimination;
  • Comprehensive services for Immigrants and Refugees, Re-Entry participants overcoming challenges after criminal conviction, Veterans, and LGBTQ populations.

Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention

We can help homeowners who are either currently in foreclosure or for whom foreclosure is imminent. For the latter, we coordinate efforts with local housing-counseling agencies and banks to address financial and employment issues and to secure mortgage modifications before the initiation of any legal process. In ongoing foreclosure actions, we enter into modification negotiations on behalf of the homeowner.

Our goal is to maintain homeownership for Western New Yorkers. To that end, the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo is partnered in the Foreclosure Prevention Project of Buffalo and Western New York with Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled and Disadvantaged and the Western New York Law Center in a collaborative effort.

Family Justice

Our Family Law attorneys can represent either party in a divorce proceeding. We give priority to cases involving contested custody, domestic violence, mental-health issues, or particular client vulnerability. We also handle some Family Court matters of child or spousal support, custody, visitation, and family-offense petitions. Please call the office for eligibility requirements.

Housing

Our housing team understands the quandary of homeowners with minimal resources who wish to remain in their homes as their bills mount. Property-maintenance costs, city and county taxes, water-usage fees—the rise in all of these demands can seem impossible to meet. We can help to set priorities to maintain home ownership and neighborhood stability. We not only represent homeowners, landlords, and tenants in court, but we link to other not-for–profit agencies and funding resources for assistance. We can also handle such related legal issues as title, finances, and tax benefits.

Unemployment/Discrimination/Wage Theft

We provide advice, counsel and direct representation to low-income workers facing denial of unemployment insurance benefits; wage theft in the form of minimum-wage and overtime violations; and workplace discrimination or retaliation, including discrimination based on past criminal convictions. We also advise regarding such other employment-related matters as family and medical leave.

Re-entry

We advise, counsel and represent individuals released from incarceration in a variety of civil matters. These include employment, housing, and family issues.

Immigrants and Refugees

Western New York has received thousands of immigrants and refugees for settlement in the past decade. We are the lead agency of the Coordinated Refugee/Asylee Legal Services Project, the aim of which is to assist immigrants and refugees with such legal concerns as housing, matrimonial matters, domestic violence, and child custody. We also help them with education-related issues within the City of Buffalo School system.

Veterans

We advise service members of their rights under the Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act, as well as the laws of the State of New York regarding divorce, child support, custody, visitation, family offense (order of protection), and spousal support. We also assist veterans and active members with housing, homelessness, and employment discrimination. We participate, often along with attorneys of the Criminal Unit, in the Erie County Veterans Court, a single venue whose aim is in to achieve successful reintegration into civilian culture.

LGBTQ

Our staff is fully familiar with marriage-equality rights and the impact of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act on same-sex marriages in New York. We handle cases of child support; divorce; parental rights; employment discrimination; domestic violence; name changes; transgender-specific issues in employment and health care ; housing; educational discrimination; and youth issues related to school and other services.