Navigating the court system can be difficult for an average person under the best of circumstances, but for Richard, who was struggling with brain fog after recovering from COVID-19, the task seemed impossible.
After unexpected medical expenses, Richard and his wife fell behind on credit card payments. Living on a fixed social security retirement income, they could not pay for medical care and living expenses.
In an effort to pay down their debt, the couple decided to work with a company that consolidates debt. Unknown to Richard at the time, one of their creditors was unwilling to consolidate the debt and instead opted to file a lawsuit.
After receiving a civil summons for credit card debt in the mail, “I thought to myself my gosh, what am I going to do?” said Richard. “I was really in a mess.”
Richard had 30 days to complete the requested court forms. “I went to the court, and the clerk wouldn’t accept my paperwork. I had filled it out all wrong. I saw this guy 3 or 4 times; he told me to get legal advice,” said Richard.
The courthouse clerk gave Richard a list of legal aid resources available in the Inland Empire.
“After trying to call a few and having no luck getting a hold of any of ’em. I went down to the Y,” said Richard. He had 15 days left to file the required forms.
“Presently, San Bernardino and Riverside courts do not offer self-help services in civil cases beyond small claims and landlord/tenant cases,” said Paula Salcido, YMCA Legal Aid Director and Attorney at Law. “The YMCA, Legal Aid Program, is available to provide vital information about the civil court process, explain available options, and prepare court forms if the choice is to file a response with the court.”
The creditors did not want to work with the debt consolidation company. “They were asking for a bunch of money every month, and me and my wife have social security as our income. We couldn’t afford that,” said
Richard was able to sit down and speak with Paula, the Y Legal Aid Director. “She made things so crystal clear; I had no problem,” shared Richard.
“She gave me the information and talked to us in a way we could understand it,” said Richard.
Paula explained that Richard and his wife were Judgment-proof, and creditors could not seize their assets.
“She told me what to say to them. It was the best experience I ever had,” said Richard.
“Our $30 consult fee is an affordable option and allows an individual to access legal information and make an informed choice on their next steps in the legal process,” said Paula.
Unlike other clinics, the YMCA’s Legal Aid Clinic is entirely community-funded and receives no federal or state support. This year alone, 554 individuals and families have received legal assistance at the Y. Through your generous donations, the YMCA’s Legal Aid Clinic can provide low-cost services to all in need in our community.
**Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
About 1 in 4 Californians will experience a legal problem related to finances.1
- California Justice Gap Study. 2019.