Legal Information for Families Today
|Type||Community-Based Nonprofit Organization|
|Key people||Board Of Directors and Staff|
|Mission||LIFT’s mission is to enhance access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, community education, and compassionate guidance, while promoting system-wide reform of the courts and public agencies.|
|Motto||Justice for all. One family at a time.|
Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) is a non-profit organization that provides legal information and emotional support to unrepresented litigants so that they can successfully self-advocate in New York State and City Family Courts.
LIFT was launched in 1996, when two lawyers established “go-to” locations in New York City’s Family Courts that provided on-the-spot help and legal information for vulnerable families struggling to make their way through the City’s complex Family Court system. Before LIFT, there was no source of information or guidance for families in the City’s Family Courts, and the type of on-the-spot service LIFT offered was immediately in-demand and has served as the foundation for their programmatic growth throughout the organization’s history.
The majority of New Yorkers embroiled in the Family Courts have no legal representation as they attempt to navigate a complex, under-resourced, and over-crowded bureaucracy. In this environment, without the tools necessary to seek resolution to their problems – tools such as knowledge of their legal rights or basic court procedure – families are all too often unable to access justice.
Programs and Activities
Family Court-Based Services – LIFT operates Education & Information Sites in the heavily trafficked lobbies and waiting areas in the Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens Family Courts, where staff are available to answer a wide-range of questions pertaining to family law and navigating the Family Court, and distribute LIFT's multilingual Legal Resource Guides. LIFT can also be found in the Family Court Help Centers.
Family Law Information Telephone & Email Hotlines – The Hotlines provide free information about family law, Family Court procedure, and related matters including child welfare policy and child support regulations. The Telephone Hotline can be reached at 212-343-1122 and the Email Hotline at www.LIFThotline.org.
Legal Resource Guides – LIFT produces more than 30 original Legal Resource Guides, which provide step-by-step information on family law and how the Family Courts function. Topics include: Child Support, Custody and Visitation, Rights of Relatives in Family Court, Rights of Immigrants in Family Court, and Changing Your Name or the Name of Your Child. The Legal Resource Guides are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean, Russian, Haitian/Creole, and are currently being translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Tagalog, Urdu, and Yiddish.
Family Legal Center (FLC) – Located at LIFT’s office in lower Manhattan, a team of paralegals, social workers, and program associates provide free services to people involved in child support, custody and visitation without lawyers, services include: one-on-one legal information; court document preparation; court and child support hearings accompaniment; peer support groups; parenting skills, conflict resolution, and financial literacy workshops; and referrals to community-based social services .
System Reform – To advance the organization’s mission, LIFT takes their front-line experience and extensive data to key advisory committees, coalitions, and Court administration to give voice to Family Court-involved families and foster positive system reform. LIFT frequently testifies before public officials and participates in national conferences, resource fairs, and community events pertaining to family law. The organization also serves on a number of advisory committees and task forces, including the NYC Family Court Advisory Council and the NYC Kincare Taskforce.
Judge for a Day Program – At the Judge for a Day Program LIFT invites members of the private and public sectors to sit alongside a Family Court judge and observe requests for orders of protection, juvenile delinquency trials, custody disputes, and other matters. This is followed by a discussion facilitated by LIFT and the hosting judges. The goal of this program is to help improve the conditions of Family Court and to bring resources to LIFT.
LIFT has been recognized for the following awards:
- 2009: LIFT was a finalist for the New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Award, given to the nonprofit that best exhibits excellence in management and that plays a critical role in enriching and improving the lives of people in New York City.
- 2009: LIFT received the Thom A. Fluellen Award from the NYU Community Fund, which recognizes an outstanding organization that demonstrates tireless efforts in the community.
- 2008: LIFT received The Samuel J. Duboff Memorial Award from the Fund for Modern Courts. The award recognizes non-lawyers who make extraordinary contributions toward improving the quality of justice in New York State.
- 2005: LIFT’s Family Court-based Education & Information Sites were recognized as an "exemplary" court program by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.