William Bryant

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3 in 4 (74%) low-income households experienced 1+ civil legal problems in the past year.

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Single father William Bryant thought his custody battle was over when he moved with his two children to Tampa so he could care for his mother, who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

William had been granted sole custody of both children in West Virginia, where the family previously lived, after domestic violence and negligence issues were reported when the children were in the care of his ex-wife.

Shortly after the move, William’s ex-wife attempted to modify her child support payments through the West Virginia court system even though William had filed the necessary petition to relocate jurisdiction to Florida. She then filed a Motion to Dismiss in Florida, asserting that the parties and the minor children were still under the West Virginia Court’s jurisdiction.

“Trying to navigate the legal landscape pro se [is] cumbersome and no task for the faint of heart,” said William. Without the funds to pay an attorney, he assumed he was alone in this complex legal battle. Then, on one of his many visits to the courthouse, William was referred to Bay Area Legal Services. He applied and soon received a call from staff attorney Cissy Sevelin, who agreed to take on his case. 

“From that moment on, an enormous weight was lifted from my shoulders,” he said. “It just increasingly became more reassuring, having [Cissy] and Bay Area Legal Services, all my [legal] team, assisting my children and I with obtaining a necessary result.” 

William and family

Cissy guided William in collecting the necessary records to prove that he had met the requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) which, in turn, convinced his ex-wife to withdraw their opposition. The court granted William’s request to establish jurisdiction in Florida and keep sole custody of the two children. 

"Cissy explained every step of the process in a manner that was easy to follow. She was never vague or inaccessible... From the very beginning she put my mind at ease and remained in constant contact," William said. 

William is now remarried and his children are thriving in their new community and home environment. He continues to care for his mother – free from the burden of a legal battle.

With the tremendous amount of tasks on my plate in my personal life and severely limited funds, Bay Area Legal was key in bringing a fair closure to the matter and relieving me of a gargantuan strain on my already limited time and resources: that [relief] was immeasurable.”

William Bryant

Photography by Michael M. Sinclair

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