It’s Almost Impossible for Inmates to Get a Divorce

The average prisoner has neither the power to compel transportation to court nor the money to hire an attorney. But one Chicago court may have found a fix.

News Story (Illinois)

Kim Bellware
Atlantic, The
September 1, 2017

Tags: Courts, Divorce, Technology

Organizations mentioned/involved: Cabrini Green Legal Aid (Chicago) (CGLA), Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ISCCATJ)


For years, Dickler and her staff had received letters from prisoners around the state who were desperate to settle domestic matters but would inevitably hit a wall while attempting to draft a petition themselves, pay filing fees, or serve a spouse with papers. Most of them were women, who make up the fastest-growing segment of the prison population and who have, in some cases, unique legal needs.

Women, for example, often have complicated child-visitation or guardianship cases. They also get fewer visitors from family than men do, according to legal-aid experts, which can translate to them having fewer advocates helping them negotiate red tape from the outside.