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New Food Stamps Toolkit and Calculator launched!
MLH is pleased to announce a new toolkit in the Public Benefits section all about Food Stamps. The I Need Food Stamps (FAP) toolkit has information about how to apply for food stamps, who is eligible, and additional help for people who are homeless or who are immigrants. The toolkit also has a link to the Food Stamp (FAP) Calculator, where people can find out if they are eligible for Food Stamps, and if they are, how much Food Stamps they can expect. These resources used to be found at FoodStampHelp.org, but MLH worked with Legal Services of Eastern Michigan to update them and move them to Michigan Legal Help.
MLH in the NYT
11th Self-Help Center opens in Alcona County!
We are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of our 11th Self-Help Center. On Wednesday, May 18th the Alcona County Library in Harrisville, MI welcomed partners from the courts and wider community to celebrate this new hub of legal assistance for residents of the surrounding areas, including Alcona, Oscoda, Arenac and Iosco counties.
“We are very pleased to be a part of the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center network,” said Hon. Laura A. Frawley, Chief Judge of the Alcona County Circuit Court, “The 23rd Judicial Circuit is one of the largest circuits in Michigan, and serves the residents of four rural counties: Alcona, Arenac, Iosco and Oscoda. In areas with low population and high unemployment, there are real limitations on access to legal representation or legal aid clinics and other services. By getting legal information and assistance from the Self-Help Center at the Alcona County Library, people will be better equipped to bring their cases before the court, which will improve their experiences as well as make court operations smoother.” She adds, “Individuals from any of these counties are also welcome to visit our Self-Help Center, or the one at the Oscoda County Public Library.”
“We are delighted to be working with so many community partners in Alcona County and throughout the state,” said Michigan Legal Help Program Director Angela Tripp. “The addition of the Self-Help Center of Alcona County gives us the chance to reach even more people in northern Michigan who need legal self-help tools. We are so excited about the growth in the Self-Help Center network state-wide, and about this new location in Alcona County, First of 83!”
Education Section added
The MLH site recently introduced a new content area: Education. Two toolkits, My Child Needs or Gets Special Education Services and My Child is Facing Punishment or Explusion from School deal with special education-accommodations, discipline, student rights, Limited English Proficiency students. Soon an interview will be added to allow parents to create the letters necessary to petition for these services.
New Family Law Content
Attention Food Assistance recipients and applicants
Michiganders who receive food assistance are encouraged to file for a Home Heating Credit to make sure they get the full amount of benefits they are eligible to receive.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is making Michigan residents aware of the potential effect the credit can have on federal food assistance benefits available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Some renters could qualify for increased monthly food assistance if they receive a Home Heating Credit of more than $20 in the current month or any of the previous 12 months and then notify their MDHHS caseworker.
The credit in some cases is a factor in determining the amount of food assistance for renters who don’t pay their heating costs separately.
The Home Heating Credit is available to customers who meet income requirements and own or rent a home in Michigan. Apply by filling out Form MI-1040CR-7 for 2015. It is available without filing a Michigan tax return. To get a form:
- Download the Form and Booklet from the Michigan.gov website..
- Pick up a paper copy at a public library, post office, MDHHS office or other locations where income tax forms are available.
- Call the Department of Treasury at 517-636-4486.
- If you are hearing- or speech-impaired, contact the Michigan Relay Center, 800-649-2777 or 7-1-1.
- Call 2-1-1 to find local agencies that provide assistance with completing tax forms. Michiganders should file as soon as they know their household income for 2015. The deadline is Sept. 30.
Frequently asked questions about the credit and food assistance can be found on the MDHHS website.
Two New Interviews Now Available
Divorce Process Flow Chart & New Toolkit Layout
Happy New Year! MLH is happy to announce two improvements to the website for 2016:
- The Divorce Process Flow Chart is accessible as an article in the Family Section, and also via a link in the Checklist! This guide should help plaintiffs and defendants alike in understanding the steps and timelines involved with the entire divorce process, from filing to service to hearings. Friend of the Court meetings and default/consent judgments.
- All Forms are now easier to access! We changed the Toolkit Layout to display all relevant Forms at the top pf the page and all Articles below.
Look for more Flow Charts in other content areas soon, and please tell us what you think about the changes. Your feedback helps us improve our services as we grow!
2015 End of the Year Greetings
Well, the verdict is clear: we’re doing lots of things right! The Michigan Legal Help Program is now in its third year, and the state-wide project to help self-represented litigants in Michigan is growing:
- 6.3 million page views to www.michiganlegalhelp.org since August 2012
- 23,000+ visits per week
- 276 sets of forms completed per day on LawHelp Interactive
- 10 Self-Help Center locations
As 2015 ends, we would like to share some recent highlights with you:
- This fall we improved the website design. The new toolkit layout collapses the Common Questions and makes the important, county-specific Checklists easier to find. We also updated the LiveHelp button so it floats on the screen while you search the site. Traffic on the chat service increased right away. Now it is easier for visitors to find the legal information they need and succeed with their cases. If you have any feedback about these changes, we'd love to hear it!
- As always, we continue to develop new legal content and work with our partners. The new section on Estates & Guardianships achieves both these goals. The Small Estates Toolkit: How to Transfer Property When Someone Dies explains simplified processes and informal probate proceedings. The automated interview helps people handle estates valued at $22,000 or less.
- We are also very proud that the Spanish-language version of the website, ayudalegaldemichigan.org, is complete! All content, including housing, is available en español. We will continue to translate new content as it is added to MLH.
- The Self-Help Network also grew by a lot in 2015! Services to the Detroit metro area increased dramatically. MI Supreme Court Justice Viviano came to the MLH Self-Help Center of Macomb County opening on October 22nd. Then, on November 19th, the MLH Legal Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit opened at Family Alliance for Change. This site will complement the bilingual website and help Latino residents. This SHC is the second one in Wayne County. The original site, on the 13th Floor of the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit, expanded its services this month! Approximately 300 hundred people per month use the six computer stations now available. Welcome to all of our new Navigators who joined this year!
We are grateful to everyone who has helped to improve and expand our project. And we are excited about what is coming in 2016! Look for a new content area on Special Education coming soon…
Happy Holidays from the MLHP Team
Michigan Legal Help Legal Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit Open
People in Wayne County who need information about how to handle simple civil legal matters but cannot afford an attorney have a new place to go for help– the Michigan Legal Help (MLH) Legal Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit. This new center is located at the Family Alliance for Change, a community center at 3627 W. Vernor in Southwest Detroit that offers support, advocacy, referrals, resources and education to all Wayne County families. With the addition of the MLH Legal Self-Help Center, now families can also find support when dealing with some legal issues.
Visitors to the Center can get assistance using the Michigan Legal Help website in English (www.MichiganLegalHelp.org) and Spanish (www.ayudalegaldemichigan.org), and can use the Center to access computers and printers. The Center is open to the public on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.. All services are provided free of charge.
The MLH Legal Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit complements the well-established service delivery model of the Family Alliance for Change (FAFC), a parent driven, peer-to-peer service dedicated to supporting, educating, and empowering parents with special needs children. In the Legal Self-Help Center, FAFC Parent Support Partners serve as trained Navigators who help visitors find information they need on the Michigan Legal Help website. While Navigators cannot give legal advice, they can answer questions about court practices and processes, help visitors locate and complete the SCAO-approved forms available on the website, and find referrals to a lawyer or community service providers.
The Spanish-language version of the website, www.ayudalegaldemichigan.org, was launched in September 2014 in an effort to reduce language barriers in access to justice. Toolkits from all ten content areas are now available in Spanish. The LiveHelp chat service, which allows visitors to the website to ask questions via chat, is staffed by bilingual Navigators through Michigan Legal Help. Six informational videos covering topics from “Going to Court” to “How to Serve Divorce & Custody Papers” to “How to File a Personal Protection Order” are available in both English and Spanish. Automated form interviews that enable litigants to request a foreign-language interpreter, personal protection order, or a fee waiver are other examples of how Michigan Legal Help works to make the court system accessible regardless of language proficiency, national origin or income level.
The MLH Legal Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit is the second self-help center to open in Wayne County, the tenth in the state-wide MLH network, and the first bilingual MLH Self-Help Center in Michigan. This newest center represents the joint efforts of the Michigan Legal Help Program and its local partners, including Development Centers, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides a continuum of prevention, treatment and training services to meet the behavioral health, social and vocational needs of individuals, families and the community.
The Michigan Legal Help Program is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people to participate in the justice system through a website and individual self-help centers that provide tools to help people navigate the legal system effectively. Visitors can access free articles, court-approved forms, and toolkits designed to enable them to resolve their legal problems independently. Many court forms can be filled out online using a simple question and answer interview format. The website can help visitors look for a lawyer in their area if they need more assistance; it also includes information about local community services and details about the court(s) where a visitor’s legal issue may be handled.
“We are so pleased to be a part of the second Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center in Wayne County,” said Hon. Kathleen McCarthy, Presiding Judge of the 3rd Circuit Court’s Family Division. “Many of our litigants do not have access to legal representation or to legal aid clinics, especially those who do not have readily-available transportation or who speak Spanish as their primary language. The new bilingual Self-Help Center in southwest Detroit will enable residents to access free legal information and forms easily without having to come downtown to the courthouse. The center, along with the Michigan Legal Self Help website that is available in English and Spanish, will serve as a great resource for our community and the court system.”
By clarifying county-specific procedures for filing paperwork properly and providing clear answers to common questions, the MLH Self-Help Centers around the state are essential to ensuring access to justice for self-represented litigants. The standardized forms and automated interview process benefit the courts by educating the general public and improving accuracy and efficiency in court proceedings.
Currently, the MLH website has legal information about family law matters, protection from abuse, housing issues, consumer law, expungement, public benefits, income tax issues, estates & guardianships, and individual rights. In addition to the four metro Detroit Self-Help Centers, Michigan Legal Help collaborates with lawyers, court personnel, librarians, community organizations and volunteers from around the state in building a strong network of public legal support.
“We are delighted to be working with so many community partners in Wayne County and throughout metro Detroit,” said Michigan Legal Help Program Director Angela Tripp. “The integration of the Self-Help Center of Southwest Detroit into an established network of community services gives us the chance to reach even more people who need legal help. We are so excited about the growth in the Self-Help Center network state-wide, and about this very first bilingual center in southwest Detroit.”
The original Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Wayne County is located in Smart Detroit, Suite 1300 of the Penobscot Building, at 645 Griswold in downtown Detroit. Six computer stations are now available to the public at this site, and trained staff is also available to assist visitors in navigating the justice system. The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Oakland County is located in the Adams-Pratt Law Library in the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac. The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County is located in the James C. Daner Law Library in the Circuit Courthouse in Mt. Clemens.
The Michigan Legal Help Program is funded by the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Michigan Supreme Court, and through grants from the Legal Services Corporation.