Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law on the “Front Lines” for Veterans

Nathan Goncalves, J.D., an Army veteran and the Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Center, spoke at the Equal Justice Works Conference about the new Veterans Family Law Project at the Center. He is working with experienced Center staff attorneys to provide free legal services and legal education to veterans. Nathan has personally experienced the challenges veterans may face in family law court. “I believe Nathan is the perfect person to lead this project,” says Betty Nordwind, Executive Director. “We are very grateful to the Equal Justice Works Text to Give Program for making it happen.”

Here are some excerpts of Nathan’s powerful speech, given at the Equal Justice Works conference in Washington D.C. on November 8, 2018:

“On Easter Sunday 2009, our convoy was ambushed and a 500-pound roadside bomb was detonated as our vehicles drove over a crush wire detonator. I don’t know how long it took, maybe a fraction of a second from bright flash to loud boom, but my whole life changed forever in that moment. Everything, from the way I wake up in the morning, to the way that I go to sleep, it all just changed, forever.

Despite playing an active role in my child’s life, demonstrating academic success and managing my conditions and symptoms, my diagnosis of PTSD was used as a reason to question my ability to parent effectively. I was fortunate enough to have family members that paid for an attorney, and we successfully defeated the argument that PTSD was a detriment to my child. Most indigent veterans are not lucky enough to have the resources I have, and are forced to face this situation alone.

While active in the military, combat is viewed as a badge of honor, a rite of passage. However, the mental, emotional, and physical scars veterans carry from their service are often used against them in family court.

I became a lawyer so that I could help veterans facing a similar situation that I have to navigate. Because of my personal background and experiences, I’m in a unique position to gain access to even the most guarded veterans.

Having my family gives me the purpose I need to take control of my rehabilitation and work to provide my son with the best possible life. I want to do the same for other veterans and their families.”

For a flyer to share information on the Veterans Family Law Project, click here.