Legal help center expands, relocates

 In November 2012, the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Wayne County opened to help resident of Detroit and Wayne County who are unable to afford an attorney. At the beginning of 2014, the center moved so that it could expand its hours and be available to help even more people with legal needs.

The Self-Help Center is now located in Smart Detroit, Suite 1300 of the Penobscot Building at 645 Griswold. The new location is more convenient for many individuals with family law matters involving children because it is in the same building as the Friend of the Court. The center is staffed by navigators who can help visitors use the Michigan?Legal Help website (www.michiganlegalhelp.org) to learn how to represent themselves in simple civil legal matters. The Self-Help Center is now open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 
“The Self-Help Center is a valuable resource for self-represented persons in our community,” said Zenell Brown, executive court administrator of the Third Circuit Court. “Many individuals who come through our courts cannot afford to hire an attorney. The Self-Help Center offers the use of computers and printers and one-on-one assistance when needed to help these persons navigate the court system. It also provides them with information to resolve their legal matters more efficiently.”

The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Wayne County is an Internet-based self-help center tha makes use of the free legal information available at www.michiganlegalhelp.org. In addition to providing access to the website, self-help center staff are available to help visitors find what 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 who need to handle simple legal matters themselves how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. The website contains articles explaining specific areas of law, toolkits, forms, and instructional checklists. Many court forms can be filled out online using a simple question and answer interview format. The website can help users look for a lawyer in their area if they need more assistance. The website also includes information about local community services and details about the court where a website visitor’s legal issue may be handled.

The website currently has legal information about family law matters, protection from abuse, housing issues, consumer law, expungement, public benefits, income tax issues, and individual rights. Family law matters included divorce, custody, child support, and change of domicile. The protection from abuse section deals with personal protection orders. The housing section pertains to leases, security deposits, landlord/tenant issues, mobile homes, eviction, and subsidized housing.

Consumer legal issues include suits regarding debts, small claims, installment payment plans, and garnishment. The expungement section provides information about setting aside an adult criminal conviction or a juvenile adjudication. The public benefits section includes information about food stamps, cash assistance, Medicaid, disability benefits, and Social Security. Income tax topics include the earned income tax credit, free tax preparation, innocent spouse relief, and tax refund garnishment. The individual rights section contains information about emancipation of minors and name change. New content is added to the website all the time.

“We are excited to be working with so many community partners in Wayne County,” said Project Director Angela Tripp. “The expansion of the Self-Help Center in Wayne County is a wonderful achievement and gives us the chance to reach even more people who need legal help.”

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