Residents of Monroe County who are unable to afford an attorney have a new place to go for assistance – the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Monroe County. Located in the Monroe County Opportunity Program building, at 1140 S. Telegraph Road in Monroe, 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. The Self-Help Center is open on Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 4:30pm.
The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Monroe County 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.
“It is a great pleasure to welcome a staffed Self-Help Center to Monroe County,” said Daniel S. White, Circuit Court Judge and Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Section. “Through its partnership with MCOP and other agencies, the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Monroe County is now a reality. The past few years have seen a marked increase in the number of individuals who find it necessary to either pursue or respond to legal issues without the benefit of an attorney.”
Judge White added, “By getting legal information and assistance from the Self-Help Center, these individuals will be better equipped to bring their cases before the court, which will improve their experiences as well as make court operations smoother. Individuals from surrounding counties are also welcome to visit our Self-Help Center.”
The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Monroe 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.
Current website topics include family law matters, protection from abuse, housing issues, consumer law problems, public benefits, income tax, and expungement. Family law matters include divorce, custody, and child support. Consumer legal issues covered are suits regarding debts, small claims, installment payment plans and garnishment. The housing section deals with leases, security deposits, landlord/tenant issues, mobile homes, eviction and subsidized housing. Public benefits materials include articles and common questions about state and federal public benefits such as food stamps, cash assistance, and Social Security benefits. The Income Tax materials focus on the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits, and opportunities for free tax preparation for low-income individuals. Expungement provides information about setting aside an adult criminal conviction or a juvenile adjudication. Although it does not cover all areas of law, new content will be added frequently.
“We are excited to be working with the community partners in Monroe 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 Monroe County courts and Friend of the Court, the Monroe County Opportunity Program, Monroe County Department of Human Services, United Way of Monroe County, Legal Services of South Central Michigan, and Family Counseling and Shelter Services of Monroe County. This community-based approach to operating a self-help center is based on the model which Illinois Legal Aid Online has used successfully for more than a decade.”