Nowhere to Go Until the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law Helped Hand Her the Keys

Esperanza* treasures her new life after ending a 31-year marriage. The generous unexpected gift she gave to the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law expressed the depth of gratitude as a former client. With the help from the Center, volunteers and its supporters, she attained financial peace of mind and regained her self-worth.

For years, Esperanza lived in quiet misery with her husband after he told her to leave. Although she boxed up clothes, she had nowhere to go. Trapped, her Social Security check was not enough to live on or get treatment for her diabetes. Severely arthritic, she could not work. With no other choice, Esperanza filed for divorce on her own while still living with him.

Angered that Esperanza was “living for free,” her husband punished her after failing in Court to force her to move out. Although his income greatly exceeded hers, he refused to pay the electric bill, and she suffered without heat to ease her painful joints. He dropped her from his medical insurance. He boasted that he would tie up their case until she died, and she would get nothing. Realizing she could not do it alone, she found the Harriett Buhai Center.

At the Center, Esperanza learned that she had community property rights to their house and her husband’s pension. With the Center’s guidance, Esperanza had her health benefits reinstated. Volunteer attorney, Roger Halfhide, prepared the order to divide the pension, and Esperanza received a lump sum payment and monthly payments for the rest of her life.

With her pro bono attorney in court, Robyn Santucci, Esperanza was awarded spousal support and an equitable division of the community property. She was elated, but it wasn’t over. Her husband refused to sign the final property documents, but Pablo Schlueter-Corey, the Center’s staff attorney, obtained an order allowing the clerk to sign them. Esperanza figuratively held the keys to move out and start a new life.

*Client’s name changed to protect her privacy.