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Barbara E. Buckley, executive director of Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, during an interview on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Starting in January, people who represent themselves in court and want to file for a Temporary Protective Order (TPO), otherwise known as a restraining order, will be able to do so in the same Las Vegas location that processes custody, divorce and other related civil proceedings.

Under the old system, self-representing litigants had to file TPOs at Family Court and would then be directed to a different location for custody and divorce assistance. Family Court and Legal Aid Center representatives said the new center, slated to open in January 2020, will be a “one stop shop” for TPO filings as well as custody, divorce and other self-help services for litigants who cannot afford an attorney.

“Because we can’t provide 500 lawyers for everyone in need, what we do to fill in the gap is innovative projects like this,” said Barbara Buckley, executive director of Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, who described the plans at a press conference at Clark County Family Court on Tuesday. 

The Family Court will house the new center, which will be run by Legal Aid Center with initial funding from the Eighth Judicial District Court and the Clark County Commission. Representatives from Family Court and the Legal Aid Center said that the new office will streamline essential self-help services and offer an expedited process for approving TPO applications in a more user-friendly way. 

Before the process was updated, litigants often would have to wait between one and two days for their TPO applications to be processed, leaving them vulnerable to further harm. With the new “live” system, which the Family Court began implementing in January, more litigants will be able receive an approval on the same day they applied for the TPO.

According to Sonya Toma, a staff attorney at the Family Law Self Help Center, the Legal Aid Center took over operations of the Family Court’s TPO office in March, at which point the office expanded staff to include herself, a second licensed attorney and 10 non-attorney staff. While the new center is being constructed at the Family Court building, the TPO office continues to operate at full capacity in an atrium of the Family Court building.

The Family Court reports processing approximately 6,000 TPOs per year.

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