Legal Information for Families Today

Justice for all. One family at a time.

aka LEGAL INFORMATION FOR FAMILIES TODAY (LIFT)   |   Brooklyn, NY   |  www.LIFTonline.org

Mission

LIFT’s mission is to increase access to justice in New York State Family Court. We combine legal guidance, easy-to-access technology, and compassionate support to help unrepresented parents and caregivers self-advocate on critical family law issues, while working on reform that improves the system for everyone. We envision a world in which justice in New York State Family Court is attainable for everyone, fully and equitably—no matter who they are, where they live, or their economic status—because all families deserve the opportunity to create stability, security, and emotional well-being.

Ruling year info

1997

Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Cathy A. Cramer

Main address

32 Court Street Suite 1208

Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

13-3910567

NTEE code info

Family Services (P40)

Legal Services (I80)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2020, 2019 and 2018.
Register now

Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Among the many challenges confronting New York City's low-income families are Family Courts that are confusing, overburdened, and under-resourced. Each day, people line up at Courthouse metal detectors and crowd their sitting areas, often for hours, waiting for the Court to hear cases that strike the heart of family stability. With fewer than 70 judges adjudicating around 250,000 filings annually in New York City, the amount of time available for each matter is often quite short--an average of 5 -7 minutes. Yet, despite the importance of the matters being resolved in the Courthouse, most parents cannot afford to hire a lawyer or are eligible for free, Court-appointed representation because of the nature of their cases. By the Court's own count, more than 80% of litigants in New York City are unrepresented. Outside of LIFT, there is no place specifically for legal advice, information or support to address the issues associated with their Family Court matters.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Family Court-based Programs

Education & Information (EI) Sites: Before the pandemic, many Family Court litigants first encountered LIFT at our EI sites in the Family Courthouses in New York City’s five boroughs. Staff Attorneys and volunteers at the EI Sites provided quick answers to urgent legal questions.
Currently, in-person access to the courthouses is strictly limited. Family Court litigants are increasingly being referred to LIFT’s Family Law Helpline, which serves as a virtual EI Site where parents receive legal information and resources.

Legal Consultations: Unrepresented litigants meet with a LIFT staff attorney to receive vital support in preparing a case, including in-depth advice and counsel, and assistance filing petitions. Many clients return for follow-up meetings. Demand for consultations has been incredibly high throughout the pandemic, as litigants face significant delays in their cases. Consultations take place over the phone or via LIFT’s virtual platform, Family Legal Connection.

Population(s) Served
Adults

LIFT’s Family Law Helplines are the primary point of entry for parents and caregivers who need LIFT’s support and guidance. Helpline Associates help individuals understand their legal rights, options, and the Family Court process. They also provide referrals to our network of community-based service providers. The Helplines are available via: Telephone, Email, and Live Chat.

These crucial and unique resources enable people everywhere – including service members deployed overseas, home-bound individuals, and incarcerated parents (who may call us collect) – to benefit from LIFT’s support, guidance, and expertise. Bilingual (Spanish/English) Helpline Associates provide legal information and referrals to social and legal services.

As the need for legal information and guidance has intensified throughout the pandemic, LIFT increased Helpline capacity by 52% since 2019. In 2021, LIFT served 22,779 individuals on the Helplines.

Population(s) Served
Adults

LIFT's 40+ original, multilingual Legal Resource Guides (LRGs) are available at all programs and on our website. They cover a wide range of family law issues, including procedural topics, such as how to begin a case and detailed information on litigant's rights and possible remedies in the array of case types. The LRGs are written in accessible language and follow an easy-to-understand Q&A format. LIFT responds to requests from key stakeholders like the Family Court administration and the New York City Council to develop new LRGs for specific topics and populations. For example, three of our recently-completed LRGs target a specific constituency: 1) active military service members; 2) military veterans; and 3) previously incarcerated parents. The LRGs are available in 8 languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, French, Haitian/Creole, and Hebrew. Last year over 140,000 visitors to our website accessed the online version of the LRGs; nearly 24,000 copies were downloaded.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Parents

Family Legal Connection (FLC) is LIFT’s interactive, online platform for the provision of legal advice remotely to clients on their mobile devices or computers. Using videoconferencing and document-sharing technology, the platform enables our clients to consult with pro bono attorneys. FLC expands LIFT’s capacity to serve individuals without transportation, thus reducing the need for long-distance trips to the courthouse and eliminating barriers for disabled or homebound clients. It also mitigates expensive burdens such as taking time away from work and securing childcare services.

The program has been hugely successful, serving over 300 people in 2021, and continues to grow quickly as we recruit more volunteer attorneys from law firms and corporate legal departments and establish referral partnerships with our network of community-based organizations and service providers.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Parents

LIFT works with community partners throughout the five boroughs to present virtual legal clinics where family law issues are beyond the scope of their services. LIFT offers workshops and virtual legal clinics in both English and Spanish, prioritizing outreach to key constituent groups with specific needs, including: 1) veterans and active military service-members; 2) Spanish-speaking and immigrant families; 3) previously incarcerated and incarcerated parents; and 4) survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Some of our partners in the community include The Fortune Society, Children’s Aid, Legal Hand, Family Justice Centers, Samaritan Daytop Village, Queensboro Correctional Facility, and John Jay College.

Population(s) Served

LIFT’s Digital Justice Initiative was developed to address the gaps in the Family Court’s online resources and increase access to justice for families who do not have access to computers or a reliable internet connection.

LIFT recently launched Family Law Navigator, a powerful new tool on our website that delivers family law information customized to a person’s legal case and situation. The app allows users to build a tailored report on their particular family law concern quickly, anonymously, and for free. In just 2-3 minutes, Family Law Navigator provides legal information that can be a helpful starting point for people who are beginning to address their family law issue.

We are also creating guided forms and petitions. Users answer easy-to-understand questions in plain language, and their answers are mapped onto the fields of the form, generating a completed PDF form that can be uploaded into the Court’s document storage system. All our tools will be accessible on mobile devices.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Parents
Adults
Parents

Where we work

Awards

Semifinalist for New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Award 2009

New York Times Company

Samuel J. Duboff Memorial Award 2008

Fund for Modern Courts

Exemplary Court Program 2005

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

Thom A. Fluellen Award 2009

NYU Community Fund

Kathryn A. McDonald Award for Excellence in Service to Family Court 2011

New York City Bar Association

Outstanding Contributions to Pro Bono and Access to Justice 2020

NYS Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives, NY County Lawyers Assoc., NYS Bar Assoc.

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients assisted with legal needs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants attending course/session/workshop

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Related Program

Community Legal Education & Outreach

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of referrals to resources offered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of crisis hotline calls answered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Related Program

Helplines

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of Pro Bono Legal Services Partners

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Family Legal Connection

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) aims to enhance access to justice for New York families and children. LIFT provides parents, grandparents and other caregivers with legal information and advice, community education, and compassionate guidance. LIFT works to empower families going through the Family Court through our Education & Information Sites, Court Consultations, Helpline and Legal Resource Guides. LIFT also works to promote system wide reform of courts and public agencies.

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) is New York City's only nonprofit organization that empowers self-represented litigants to successfully self-advocate in Family Court. The people we serve are low-income; we estimate that their incomes are usually at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They include litigants who are not eligible for free legal services (e.g. the working poor who earn "too much" to qualify) and those who are not entitled to free, Court -appointed legal representation (e.g. parents embroiled in child support cases).

More than 80% of all Family Court litigants in New York proceed without counsel. Outside of LIFT, these litigants literally have no place to turn to receive the critical tools and support they need to represent themselves. All LIFT's work is driven by our mission: 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.

In the Family Courts, long delays and ongoing lack of sufficient resources have been among the numerous barriers to justice for pro se litigants. Given the strains on the system, LIFT's services are urgently needed to improve the administration of justice. LIFT's response to the challenges presented by the Family Court system combines several complementary strategies, all of which empower self-represented litigants to advocate for themselves in court. Our programs range from short-term interventions to in-depth, ongoing legal advice services. Family Court litigants in New York City have access to LIFT's Family Court-based programs:

- Education & Information Sites, which provide litigants with quick answers to urgent legal questions; and
- Court Consultations, which provide intensive support--as of 2017, including legal advice--to prose litigants proceeding in child support, custody and visitation cases.

LIFT also provides legal information services that are beneficial to the litigants both statewide and in NYC.
Services include:

- Family Law Information Helplines--available via toll-free telephone , email and live-chat--that provide access to LIFT from anywhere;
- Legal Resource Guides--original, multilingual publications that cover a wide range of family law issues, available in Family Courts, from partners, and on LIFT's website; and
- Legal Education--community-based workshops on Family Court and family law topics. LIFT's outreach focuses on four priority populations- criminal justice involved/formerly incarcerated people; veterans; domestic violence survivors and offenders; and immigrants.

LIFT is able to accomplish its goals through the work of its strong staff. LIFT successfully recruits and maintains a skilled and diverse staff of 18 that is representative of the communities we serve. Many speak at least one language in addition to English. All program personnel engage in a rigorous, comprehensive training designed and led by LIFT's Chief Programs Officer and Legal Director. In addition, the staff is augmented each year by an ethnically diverse pool of at least 30 interns and volunteers.

All employees, interns and volunteers, including attorneys, undergo extensive and ongoing training at LIFT to ensure that we are providing the best information and advice to our litigants. This includes a substantive family law training curriculum, with emphasis on the topics most addressed through our programs (paternity, child support, custody, visitation, and orders of protection, and a large component on the difference between legal information and legal advice. Training at the start of employment with LIFT also includes courtroom observations and shadowing experience employees. Since 2017, when LIFT added legal advice to our service portfolio, we train staff attorneys on the ethical issues/rules of professional conduct governing an attorney-client relationship and the practical applications of those issues. Wee cover : competence, scope of representation, privilege and confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. We train attorneys on how to use our engagement letter and how to explain the document and limited scope representation to clients in a way that is clear to them. All program staff are required to attend in-person, LIFT-organized, trainings eight times per year. Cultural competence elements are included in nearly all LIFT trainings.

In terms of substantive law, the change to the provision of legal advice has increased our (already vigilant) focus on updating staff on developments in the law, and how those developments play out in court. LIFT routinely brings in outside trainers through partner organizations to train on areas of law that intersect with Family Court. recent trainings have included such topics as : elder abuse; New York City housing law; domestic violence, self-care for lawyers; best practices for working with pro-bono lawyers; and judicial perspectives on family Court. Upcoming trainings will cover : implicit bias; impact of trauma: drafting court forms; restorative justice cultural competency; and matrimonial law, among other topics. All attorneys are expected to meet New York State's Continuing Legal Education requirements.

Each year LIFT serves over 30,000 parents and grandparents every year, in all five boroughs of New York City and throughout New York State.

In the year ahead, LIFT will continue to follow through on our ambitious plan to deepen our impact and meet needs that remain unmet. Our goals for 2020 entail achieving important new programmatic and organizational milestones for initiatives that are now largely underway.

1) Introducing our new name and brand for LIFT to convey the broadened scope of our critical and deepening services for Family Court litigants;
2) Publicly launching Family Legal Connection (FLC), our new, interactive, online platform for the provision of legal advice;
3) Scaling up FLC by partnering with the private sector to engage volunteer attorneys in providing pro bono legal advice to unrepresented Family Court litigants, while also partnering with local service providers to connect their clients with the attorneys;
4) Publishing new Legal Resource Guides (LRGs), and implementing plans to develop specific new LRGs for underserved constituencies; and
5) Expanding the accessibility of LIFT’s services in communities across New York City through legal clinics and educational programs, including Spanish-language workshops.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Case management notes, Community meetings/Town halls, Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Before we added legal advice to our portfolio in 2017, LIFT was providing legal information, which entails explaining to a participant what their options are, but not advising them on what they should do. (LIFT continues to provide legal information through our Helplines and EI Sites.) Based on frequent requests from the self-represented litigants LIFT serves, we determined that our in-depth Consultations should include legal advice, in which the lawyer recommends that the client select a specific course of action that will best help them achieve their legal goals.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, It is difficult to identify actionable feedback,

Financials

Legal Information for Families Today
lock

Unlock financial insights by subscribing to our monthly plan.

Subscribe

Unlock nonprofit financial insights that will help you make more informed decisions. Try our monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights?
Learn more about GuideStar Pro.

Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Legal Information for Families Today

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Gabriella Nawi

The Travelers Companies, Inc.

Term: 2020 -

Leslie Abbey

Hot Bread Kitchen

William Silverman

Proskauer LLP

Philip Cohen

Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Gabriella Nawi

The Travelers Companies, Inc.

Sheri Sandler

Reba Judith Sandler Foundation

Robert Schiffer

SL Green Realty Corp.

Ellie Becker

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Corey Chambliss

Meta

Rebecca Simmons

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Abigail Davis

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Wendy Dessy

Proskauer LLP

Nancy Hart

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Valerie Farkas

Bloomberg

Susan Warren

Community Volunteer

Ria Harracksingh

Meta

Nonny Onyekweli

The National Urban League

Jane Koltsova

Pager Duty

Lisa Zeiderman

Miller Zeiderman LLP

Anna Klein

The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/22/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data