Michigan's expungement laws changed recently. The new rules allow someone with one felony conviction and two or less misdemeanors to set aside the felony conviction. Or, if you have one or two misdemeanor convictions and no felony convictions, you can ask to set aside one or both of the misdemeanors. You must still wait for five years from the date of sentencing, release from prison, probation, or parole to file your application. Find out if you qualify to set aside your conviction by using our Automated Online Application to Set Aside Conviction interview.
Part of making Michigan Legal Help the best resource it can be is doing a formal evaluation of our work. Here's a report looking at the effectiveness of MLH in helping people navigate the divorce process: http://goo.gl/yYmw3O
We spent several months designing the study, four months collecting data by surveying divorce case files in clerks' offices and interviewing court and self-help center staff, then several more months analyzing the data and reducing it to a written report. This project was funded primarily by a Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation.
Happy new year, everyone! Here's a quick year-end report on what's new at Michigan Legal Help as we say goodbye to 2014:
- We have three new toolkits launching this month: Name Change, Stepparent Adoption, and Managing Child Support Debt. Also, I Need a Quitclaim Deed to Transfer Real Property launched in the last month or so. Each of these toolkits comes with informational articles, common questions, an interactive online interview, and checklists of instructions.
- Our Income Tax toolkits are updated for the new tax year! Don't forget that these include links to lists of places where low income people can get their taxes prepared for free.
- We continue to add new content to ayudalegaldemichigan.org and we have LiveHelp available in Spanish.
- We have completed an evaluation of the efficacy of the divorce interview and learned a lot about Michigan Legal Help as well as self-represented divorce litigants generally. We're still putting the finishing touches on the report, but we'll be publishing it soon.
- Please continue to help us spread the word about Michigan Legal Help. You can order PR materials to distribute in your community on the PR Materials page of the website - these are now available in English and Spanish!
- What have people been saying about Michigan Legal Help? Here is some feedback we've gotten from users: "Thank you for making the help available at no cost." "This site was amazing it has truly helped me. Thank you so much!" "A very sad time for me, but this was so helpful as I am an hourly person and it is hard to get downtown. I am grateful for this service and it was very user friendly."
Thanks, everyone, for making 2014 a great year - we're looking forward to an even more productive and exciting year in 2015!
As we wrap up another calendar year, we are reflecting on some of our year-end milestones. In 2014, we:
- Launched 14 new toolkits, including 16 new interviews
- Helped over 452,000 people learn more about their legal problems
- Helped 273 people fill out legal forms every day
- Chatted with over 2,600 people through LiveHelp
- Launched a Spanish-language version of MLH, AyudaLegaldeMichigan.org
- Launched 4 new videos explaining challenging legal processes
- Received feedback from many users expressing thanks for Michigan Legal Help
Would you like to say “thank you” by contributing to this great statewide resource for people representing themselves? Any amount helps us keep growing!
We may have missed "Giving Tuesday" but we welcome donations year-round. We just made it a lot easier to donate to Michigan Legal Help - just click and go: http://www.michiganlegalhelp.org/make-donation. Many thanks!
Since MichiganLegalHelp.org launched on August 17, 2012, over 760,000 visitors have accessed free, accurate legal information and forms to help them handle simple legal matters on their own. Now, much of this same information is available in Spanish at AyudaLegaldeMichigan.org.
“The launch of Ayuda Legal de Michigan is very exciting. Having this resource available in Spanish will be a great benefit for people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to handle basic legal problems. It will also benefit the courts because more self-represented litigants will be better prepared when they go to court,” said State Court Administrator John A. Hohman, Jr.
The Ayuda Legal de Michigan website was created to make legal information easier to understand and to show people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. It contains articles explaining specific areas of law, common questions, forms and instructional checklists to help prepare people who represent themselves in court. Many court forms can be filled out online using a simple question and answer interview. There are also several videos to educate visitors about specific legal processes, what to expect when going to court, and how to use the website.
Ayuda Legal de Michigan can help visitors look for a lawyer or legal self-help center in their area if they need more assistance. It also includes information about local community services and details about the court where a visitor’s legal issue may be handled. Although it does not cover all areas of law, new content is added regularly.
“We are working steadily to get more of our resources translated into Spanish,” says Angela Tripp, Project Director of the Michigan Legal Help Program. “While there is a great deal of legal information already available on Ayuda Legal, we want to make more of our interactive interviews available in Spanish to help people prepare the forms they need for court. While all court forms have to be filed in English, the interviews can be done in Spanish and users will get a second copy of their documents in Spanish as well.”
In addition to the website, the Michigan Legal Help Program works with communities to open local legal Self-Help Centers, with staff (called ‘navigators’) who help visitors find what they need on the website, answer basic questions about court practices and processes, and provide information about forms available on the website. Neither the website nor navigators can give legal advice; they provide only legal information.
Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Centers are now open in Wayne, Oakland, Muskegon, Allegan, Oscoda, Monroe, and Marquette counties. More Self-Help Centers are planned for 2014 and beyond. Ayuda Legal visitors can also get help from a website navigator through LiveHelp, a chat-based service. LiveHelp is available in Spanish from 11am – 3pm Monday through Friday.
Currently, on Ayuda Legal there is information about family law matters, protection from abuse, consumer law problems, and individual rights. Family law matters include divorce, custody, and child support. The protection from abuse tools have information about domestic relationship and other types of personal protection orders. Consumer legal issues covered are suits regarding debts, small claims, installment payment plans and garnishment. Individual rights materials include asking the court for an interpreter or to waive filing fees.
The Michigan Legal Help Program is the culmination of several years of work by the Solutions on Self-Help Task Force, which was established in 2010 by (then) Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly to improve and coordinate resources for self-represented persons. More than 100 individuals participated in the Task Force’s work, reflecting input from judges, bar associations, legal aid, local self-help centers, libraries and others. Many of these groups continue to collaborate with the effort, which is now managed by a nonprofit organization, Michigan Poverty Law Program, based in Ann Arbor.
Visit AyudaLegaldeMichigan.org to view the website and learn more about its tools for civil legal self-help in Michigan.
Today we celebrate our second birthday. It is an important milestone! It is also a good time to reflect on how far we have come, so here are a few fun facts about Michigan Legal Help at two years:
- We have published 100 articles on Michigan Legal Help about many different legal topics. These articles appear in 41 different toolkits in the areas of Family Law, Consumer Law, Protection from Abuse, Housing Law, Expungement, Public Benefits, Individual Rights, and Income Tax.
- Michigan Legal Help visitors complete an average of 125 interviews per day, getting the forms they need to file in court.
- This year, we created and launched Ayuda Legal de Michigan, a Spanish language version of Michigan Legal help. While not everything on Michigan Legal Help is available in Spanish yet, we are working hard to translate more tools every week.
- We have six videos to watch and learn about your legal rights.
- We have helped more than 2,800 people through the Live Help chat feature on Michigan Legal Help.
We'd also like to share with you some of the feedback that we've gotten over the last few months:
"This made my life so much simpler. I have been agonizing over starting the process because it seemed so daunting. This seemed to simplify everything for me and help me be confident that I am not walking into the courthouse unprepared. Thank you so much. I will definitely recommending this service to others."
"Thank you so much for providing great information on this site. I have searched all over for forms to file custody and this site was just what I was looking for."
"You provide a well needed service, and it is appreciated. Very user friendly, and very professional. Thank you."
"I think this legal help program is excellent for people like myself that cannot afford an attorney. Plus it's an excellent program for people that just need to know their rights. I love this site and I have recommended to others in my area. So Thank you very much for the much needed help."
"This was extremely helpful and helped to relieve some of the stress i was feeling related to trying to handle my divorce without an attorney."
We'd like to thank everyone who has worked with us to make this site possible, and thank you to everyone who has visited it and used it. Feedback like the quotes above are why we work so hard on Michigan Legal Help - knowing that we have helped people makes all the difference. Here's to many more years of the same!
As we head in to summer, we at Michigan Legal Help wanted to let you know about some new tools we have:
New Toolkits with Automated Interviews! We have several new toolkits:
- Emancipation - Becoming an Adult Before Age 18
- I Need to Move with My Children (information and forms for filing a Motion to Change Domicile)
- My Child's Other Parent Wants to Move (information and forms for responding to a Motion to Change Domicile)
- I'm Being Evicted for Health Hazard/Injury to the Premises. Please send any clients with these issues to Michigan Legal Help for information and forms.
We have modified the Divorce interview in response to the changes to the law from the Revocation of Paternity Act. If you have a non-marital child you need to exclude through a divorce, you can't use the divorce interview to do this, becuase the laws have changed. We are working as quickly as we can this summer to hopefully create new forms and a new interview to assist those of you with cases that are affected by the the new rules and procedures.
We have released a Judgment Only divorce interview called "Automated Online Divorce forms - JUDGMENT ONLY." This interview is for you if you have already started your divorce, but need help finishing it. The interview will prepare a Judgment of Divorce and the forms that go with it.
Have a happy and safe summer - and look for more updates soon!
We successfully made it through a very long winter, and hope for more sunny days ahead. We've been busy here at Michigan Legal Help! Here's a list of new Toolkits we have available:
- I Need to Extend My Personal Protection Order
- I Need to Change of End My Personal Protection Order
- I Need an Interpreter - this toolkit is for Limited English Proficient people who need an Interpreter to fully participate in court
- I'm Being Evicted for Health Hazard/Injury to the Premises
Here are the new interviews we have:
- Automated Online Motion to Modify, Terminate or Extend Personal Protection Order
- Automated Online Request for Interpreter
- Automated Online Response to Motion Regarding Support
And the new videos we have:
- How to Serve Divorce or Custody Papers
- How to Apply for a Personal Protection Order
We also just changed the Divorce interview becuase of changes to the law from the Revocation of Paternity Act. Visitors with non-marital children they need to exclude through a divorce will no longer be able to use the Divorce interview to this. We hope to have new forms and an interview to help with this problem by the end of the summer.
Finally, we want to remind everyone that LiveHelp is available from 11am until 3pm. LiveHelp is a chat-based feature where website visitors can get assistance navigating the website and answers to their legal information questions. (They cannot get legal advice.)
We at the Michigan Legal Help Program wish you happy holidays, and hope that 2014 brings great things everyone! As we head in to the new year, we wanted to share a brief update about what's new with Michigan Legal Help:
- We now have automated interviews for all three types of personal protection orders – Domestic Relationship, Nondomestic (Stalking) and Nondomestic (Sexual Assault). We also have a new automated interview for a Motion to Set Aside Default in a civil case.
- We want to remind everyone that LiveHelp is available from 11am until 3pm during each week. It will be closed for the holidays on 12/24, 12/25, 12/27, 12/31, and 1/1/14. LiveHelp is a chat-based feature where website visitors can get assistance navigating the website and answers to their legal information questions, but not legal advice.) This new feature has been very popular – we had almost 800 chats in September, October and November.
- Two new Self-Help Centers celebrated their grand openings recently - Monroe County (October 7th) and Marquette County (November 1st). Four other Self-Help Centers in Wayne, Oakland, Oscoda and Allegan counties celebrated their first anniversaries this fall as well, and the Center in Muskegon is having a great first year.
- Starting on January 1st, the MLH Self-Help Center of Wayne County will be housed in the Smart Detroit offices in the Penobscot building, and will have expanded hours – learn more on the Center’s portal page.
- We’ve been working with a team of translators who are translating our most popular content into Spanish – look for this new feature of Michigan Legal Help in early 2014!
- Finally, in 2014 we will be accepting applications for local Self-Help Centers on a rolling basis. If you would like one in your community, please consider reaching out to other organizations in your community to for a Self-Help Center planning committee and submit a proposal. The application is below.
Thanks for all of your continued support! As always, we love feedback - so please feel free to drop us a line if you have suggestions or comments about Michigan Legal Help and how we can better serve the self-represented people in Michigan. As we look forward to our expansion plans in 2014, your feedback is even more important!
Marquette County residents who are unable to afford an attorney have a new place to go for assistance – the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Marquette County. Located in the Peter White Public Library at 217 N. Front Street, the Self-Help Center assists visitors in using the Michigan Legal Help website to gain information about how to represent themselves in simple civil legal matters. An open house will be held on November 1st from noon to 1:00pm on the second floor of the library.
This self-help center is part of the Michigan Legal Help Program, which consists of a statewide legal self-help website (MichiganLegalHelp.org), affiliated local self-help centers and partnerships with courts, bar associations, libraries, legal aid and others to educate those who assist self-represented persons.
“We are pleased to welcome the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center to Marquette County,” said Hon. Jennifer Mazzuchi, Circuit Court Judge for the 25th Circuit Court. “Its location at the Peter White Public Library will permit our county’s residents to access legal forms and information at their convenience. Many of the litigants in the court system are unable to afford legal counsel to assist them, and these materials can help better prepare them for their court proceedings.”
The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Marquette County is an internet-based self-help center that makes use of the free legal information website www.MichiganLegalHelp.org. In addition to the website, self-help center ‘navigators’ will be available to help visitors find information they need on the website, answer questions about court practices and processes, and answer simple questions about forms that are available on the website. Navigators cannot give legal advice.
The Michigan Legal Help website was created to make legal information easier to understand and to show people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. The website contains articles explaining specific areas of law, toolkits, forms and instructional checklists to help prepare people who represent themselves in court. Many court forms can be filled out online using a simple question and answer interview format.
The website can also help users look for a lawyer in their area if they need more assistance. The website includes information about local community services and details about the court(s) where a website visitor’s legal issue may be handled.
“We are excited to be working with the community partners in Marquette County,” said Project Director Angela Tripp. Tripp is the project director for the Michigan Poverty Law Program, which manages the Michigan Legal Help Program. Tripp said, “The support for this self-help center includes judges and staff from the Marquette County courts, private and legal aid lawyers, library staff, and others. All of the Michigan Legal Help self-help centers operate with this kind of community-based approach.”