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PRO BONO PORTRAIT | Zack Risk and Kim Paulson Help Single Mom Losing Her Home

By: Bodman PLC

06/11/13

Ms. L came to Bodman through Street Outreach Court Detroit. After ten years of marriage, Ms. L’s husband received a Chrysler buy-out and up and left her and their three children. As if his sudden departure was not bad enough, Ms. L discovered that during their marriage, Mr. L had accumulated at least a dozen unpaid parking tickets with her car. As a result, the city impounded and sold her vehicle. Because the amount obtained from sale of the car fell far short of the balance owed to the city, and Ms. L could not afford to pay the remaining balance, her driver's license was suspended. Ms. L found herself a single mother with little income and no driver’s license. Through the Street Outreach Court program, Ms. L entered into a favorable payment plan with the parking department and was able to get her license back.

That was hardly the end of her troubles, though. Her now ex-husband refuses to pay child support. He has moved out of state, is believed to have transferred his assets to his mother, and no one can track down from where his income is derived. Ms. L runs a small hair salon, but does not make enough to support her family on her own. Ms. L fell behind in her property tax payments and the city is foreclosing on her house.

When she came to Bodman, Zack Risk and Kim Paulson made it their personal project to do whatever they could for Ms. L and her children, despite the long odds of success. Zack worked with Ms. L to obtain a show cause hearing, attended the hearing with her, and convinced the referee to issue a warrant for her ex-husband’s arrest for his failure to pay child support. While the issuance of a warrant does not put money in Ms. L’s pocket, it is a step in the right direction and will hopefully eventually convince Mr. L to pay.

After consultation with Erik Prater, Kim advised Ms. L that, short of paying thousands of dollars, there was little she could do to at this late date to save her house from foreclosure. Kim advised Ms. L to attend her foreclosure show cause hearing and apply for any amnesty or hardship waivers available, which she did. As a last ditch effort, Kim worked with Ms. L to complete an application for assistance through the Step Forward Michigan program. Kim and Ms. L spent hours pulling together information and copying attachments, and Ms. L has been working with representatives of the Step Forward program to assist them in completing the evaluation of her application. The fate of her house is now in the hands of the state.

Ms. L’s case demonstrates an important principle of pro bono work: sometimes giving your client hope is the best you can do. Without more information about Mr. L’s employment situation, there is little else Zack can do to obtain money for Ms. L. He got the best result available under the circumstances. Similarly, in light of Ms. L’s lack of access to cash to pay her back property taxes, Kim helped Ms. L pursue the only avenue available, albeit an uncertain one. While these results can be frustrating, the attorneys have at least given Ms. L hope that she did not have before. Zack helped her navigate the tricky Wayne County Friend of the Court to get the show cause hearing she had been seeking. Kim gave Ms. L one last possibility that she may be able to save her house, one she did not have before. Despite the uncertainty, Ms. L is exceptionally grateful to Zack and Kim for their dedication and persistence, and Zack and Kim should take pride knowing that they found hope in a seemingly hopeless case.