(CMR) Seniors learned about their rights in relation to court services and legal advice at presentations arranged by the Council of Older Persons.
The interactive presentations, given by Court Administrator Suzanne Bothwell and the Director of Legal Aid Stacy Parke, were held at the Elmslie United Church Hall as part of Older Persons Month.
Mrs. Bothwell’s presentation outlined residence orders under the provisions of the Children Law, 2012 to gain parental responsibility for grandchildren. She said guardianship applications are obtained under the Grand Court and Mental Health Laws; to help administer the affairs of people incapable of doing so. Mrs. Bothwell noted that as people where living longer, seniors sometimes have to make such applications to care for adult children.
The Court Administrator also discussed applications under domestic violence legislation, in the event of abuse of seniors by others (including but not limited to their relatives and carers). She explained that elder abuse encompasses physical, emotional and financial mistreatment.
Answering a question, Mrs. Bothwell noted that while there was no age limit on grandparents obtaining residence orders, DCFS does assess the ability of grandparents to care for children and meet their needs. The Court Administrator gave examples of what constituted financial abuse following further questions. She gave various scenarios of such abuse, including not allowing seniors to spend their money as they pleased.
The Legal Aid Director’s presentation followed. Ms Parke defined legal aid, advised on its parameters and explained who qualifies. She said legal aid provides access to justice, by ensuring equality before the law when petitioners cannot afford legal representation and access to the courts.
Ms Parke mentioned that legal aid:
● is not limited to only criminal matters, and
● may be granted in Civil law matters (personal injury, succession disputes, contract disputes etc., or family law proceedings if those involve a child e.g. divorce, children law orders or guardianship etc).
The audience had questions for the Director including what constitutes net household income when evaluating eligibility. The Director said her office can help applicants find suitable attorneys and outlined basic questions seniors should ask potential lawyers before instructing them.
Attendees were told that a checklist and the legal aid form are available on line online at www.judicial.ky/forms, or at the Legal Aid Office (located on the ground floor, Courts Office). Additionally, Ms Parke explained that depending on their level of income/savings, seniors who qualify for a legal aid certificate may have to contribute to the Legal Aid Fund. The Director advised that contributions will be either a small monthly contribution or be paid for at the end of a matter, if applicants have been successful. In conclusion, Ms Parke advised that inappropriate behaviour by legal aid lawyers can be reported by filing a written complaint, for example if an attorney asks for fees or is not following instructions.
“The Council for Older Persons was pleased with the turnout of this event. We are currently in talks with other bodies and plan to roll-out out a programme of senior-centred lunch and learn presentations in due course,” said Council Chairperson Lucille Seymour.