September 23, 2019
Jane came to Legal Aid after she was denied a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) because she had not included enough information when she tried to get one to prove the need. But there was, in fact, a long and serious history of domestic violence suffered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.
Jane and her ex, Brandon, lived together in a different town several years before she came to Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) for help. He abused her regularly, but Jane did not know how to escape the situation until Brandon pulled a gun on her in their home. She called the police, and he was arrested and went to prison. After he was arrested, Jane decided to move closer to her family and hometown.
After Brandon got out of prison, he found out where Jane lived and went to find her, where he pleaded with her to take him back, saying he had changed and things would be different this time. Brandon said they should buy a house together, settle down, and start a new life. But his commitment wasn’t as grand as he had promised, and he eventually left Jane and moved several hours away, taking Jane’s beloved dog with him when he left.
Jane continued to live in their home with her children (from a relationship before she met Brandon), but there were days she would come home to find Brandon sitting in the house drinking heavily. On many of those nights, he was abusive again, meaning Jane had to find another place to stay for the night. Because the house was purchased in both of their names, Jane couldn’t keep Brandon out without a DVPO.
After Jane filed for a DVPO, Brandon was outraged and hired an attorney to force the house to be sold, with $40,000 of the proceeds going directly to Brandon for the down payment he paid then any remaining equity to be split down the middle.
Though Jane didn’t make much money, she worked full-time and stayed up-to-date on the house payments herself after Brandon moved out. She was interested in buying the house outright and got a pre-approval letter for a loan from the bank. Brandon didn’t want Jane to have the house, so he and his attorney worked hard to keep her from buying, saying she couldn’t secure a loan, even with her pre-approval letter.
During the drawn-out case, Jane’s LAWV attorney did not give up, which frustrated Brandon and his lawyer. One email from Brandon’s lawyer read, in part, “I don’t know how your client, who obviously is so economically disadvantaged that she requires the services of taxpayer and charitably funded Legal Aid, is going to qualify for a loan to buy out my client’s interest in this property.”
Jane’s treatment during this case is not unlike many of LAWV’s client who—despite doing everything they can—are treated as unimportant or illegitimate. And even though we are a nonprofit law firm, our attorneys are fierce advocates, which Brandon’s counsel ultimately learned when Jane’s lawyer obtained Orders from the Judge allowing her to buy the house at an affordable price. Earlier this year, Jane and her attorney were thrilled as she was able to close on her house and is now the sole owner with the ability to keep herself and her children safe.