MISSION, HISTORY, AND COMMUNITY NEED
The mission of Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) 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.
LIFT was launched in 1996 when three lawyers had the simple but revolutionary idea of establishing “go-to” locations in New York City’s Family Courts that would provide on-the-spot help and legal information for vulnerable families struggling to make their way through the complex Court system. Before LIFT, there was no source of information or guidance available, and families were left to fend for themselves in a confusing and intimidating Court system.
Today, LIFT operates innovative, award-winning programs in the Family Courts and in the community, all of which share the goal of promoting positive outcomes for families and children.
In Family Court, few people are entitled to receive free court-appointed legal representation, and because the majority of Court users are low-income, most cannot afford to retain counsel on their own. Thus, families typically carry the burden of representing themselves as they attempt to address matters fundamental to the well-being of children, such as custody, visitation, adoption and domestic violence.
Without an understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities and without a roadmap to the system, families lose what little opportunity they have to secure a prompt and appropriate legal response to their problems. Moreover, the feelings of helplessness, alienation, and anger evoked by these conditions compound the stresses that propelled many families into Court in the first place, setting the stage for additional family crises and poor outcomes for children.
All of LIFT's programs empower families to address these challenges and secure positive outcomes for themselves and their children.