As Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation reports that 69 percent of women the organization serves have experienced domestic violence in the last year – an increase of 19 percent from the year before. Now, with a $20,000 grant from Cox, Fresh Start has established the Cox Virtual Courtroom for clients to safely access legal services through Fresh Start’s Family Law Support program. In these difficult times, and throughout the year, the Family Law Support program aims to help Arizona’s women navigate the complex family court system as they file for divorce, legal protection, or child custody.
“Cox knows the impact the right technology can make and how essential it can be for people facing systemic hardships. We know being in these situations can be very stressful and we want to help provide a safe, more comfortable, and technologically seamless environment for Fresh Start women to get the legal support they need. We are proud to partner with Fresh Start in this vital program,” said Susan Anable, Vice President of Public Affairs, Cox Southwest Region.
The Cox Virtual Courtroom, now in use, includes a 50” TV, high-speed WiFi, laptop, webcam, headsets, acoustic ceiling tiles and wall panels for soundproofing, and a wireless conference phone – all sponsored by Cox. This state-of-the-art space is available to Fresh Start clients who need to appear in court virtually or meet with legal representation, including the free legal support of Community Legal Services. In addition, 238 new Family Law Support participants have had their intake fees waived because of Cox’s support.
“Navigating the court system in Arizona can often be a difficult and confusing process,” says Kim McWaters, President and CEO of Fresh Start. “And, attempting to do so alone — without proper legal support or access to the necessary technology — makes it even more challenging, especially for women in unstable home environments. We remain so grateful to Cox for this grant and the impact it has in our community.” She adds, “The Cox Virtual Courtroom ensures that women have safe access to the tools and resources necessary to best prepare for court, to effectively advocate for themselves and their children.”
This year, the Family Law Support program has seen a 51 percent increase in family law sessions year-over-year. Fifty-three percent of women accessing the program report an income less than $25,000 per year.
“I really appreciate having a private place with a secure internet connection. My internet is so touchy where I live that I was afraid to use it for court,” explains one Family Law Support program participant who wishes to remain anonymous.
Since 1992, Fresh Start Women’s Foundation has advanced its mission of providing education, resources, and support to women to positively transform their lives and achieve their full potential. The non-profit organization provides a variety of programs and services focusing on career, education, and life skills, and offers support to assist women over the age of 18 in their journey of achieving self-sufficiency.