News Archive

New Immigration Content Area

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Michigan Legal Help just introduced its latest content area: Immigration! This new section contains the Immigration Basics toolkit and 5 articles, with information about family based immigration, becoming a citizen, removal, and other topics. Our toolkit also contains Common Questions that can provide answers to your specific immigration-related questions. Please tell us what you think about our new content area! Stay tuned for more Immigration toolkits in the future…

Helpful Tools for This Tax Season

Monday, January 29, 2018

Michigan Legal Help would like to wish you a Happy New Year! The end of January is already here, which means it’s Tax Filing Season. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will start accepting tax returns on Monday, January 29th. Taxes are due on Tuesday, April 17th. Michigan Legal Help would like to tell you about some great resources that may help you prepare and file your taxes. You might even be able to file your taxes for free.

Free File

Free File is a free, federal tax-filing software offered by the IRS. You must have an income lower than $66,000 to use it. You’ll also need an email address, a copy of last year’s tax return, and documents for your income and tax deductions. The tool also allows you to e-file and receive your refund by direct deposit. According to the IRS, this is the fastest method of receiving your refund. Get started on the IRS website.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a program that helps people prepare their taxes and in some cases, e-file them, all for free. The volunteers that will help you are IRS-certified. To use the program your income must be less than $54,000. You may also be eligible if you have a disability or are not a fluent speaker of English. Find the VITA site closest to you online or call 800-906-9887.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is another program that offers free help with preparing and filing taxes. This program is run by IRS-certified volunteers as well. To be eligible you must be 60 years of age or older. The volunteers will help you with tax questions related to retirement, pensions, and other information specific to seniors. Find the closest TCE site on the IRS website or the AARP website. You may also call 800-906-9887 or 888-227-7669.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable income tax credit. Refundable tax credits reduce the amount of income taxes you owe. If you qualify for one, it could result in a refund. Please read the article “Meet the Earned Income Tax Credit” to learn more.

Other Resources

Here are some other IRS resources you may find helpful:

Here are some more of our own resources that might be helpful:

Michigan Free Tax Help is another resource that has tips on preparing and filing taxes. They also have advice on important tax refunds and free tax assistance. Finally, looking for a reason to put some of your refund into savings? Save Your Refund is an organization that holds sweepstakes for people who save their tax refund. You can enter for saving as little as $50 of your refund. You can enter to win a $100 prize and a $10,000 grand prize.

End of 2017 Update

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Michigan Legal Help Program is now in its fifth year, and the state-wide project to help self-represented litigants in Michigan is growing:

  • 12.9 million page views to michiganlegalhelp.org since our website launch in August 2012
  • 28,000+ page visits per week
  • 318 sets of forms completed per day on Law Help Interactive
  • 18 Self-Help Center locations
  • 497 Twitter followers
  • 846 Facebook likes

We’ve added some exciting new features to our website in 2017:

  • This fall we launched our new Guide to Legal Help. The Guide gives visitors referrals and legal information tailored to their legal problem. Clients may be directed to a Legal Aid office, or to Michigan’s Counsel and Advocacy Law Line, or to the State Bar of Michigan’s various lawyer search and referral tools. It also alerts visitors to possible eligibility for public benefits.  This personalized tool allows visitors to easily access the information and referrals that are most relevant to them.  
  • This year, we continued to develop new legal content and work with our partners. We added two new content areas on Farmworkers and Immigration, 3 toolkits, 17 articles, 10 common questions, and 1 Do-It-Yourself Tool.
  • Our Spanish version of the website, ayudalegaldemichigan.org, has been updated! Our Farmworkers content is available en español! We will continue to translate new content as it is added to MLH.
  • The Self-Help Center Network has expanded even more than last year! We now have a total of 18 Self-Help Centers across the state. We opened 7 new Self-Help Centers in Saginaw on 3/7, Livingston on 3/29, Alpena on 5/8, Grand Traverse on 5/11, Cass on 10/26, Jackson on 11/7, and Genesee on 11/9. Welcome to all of our new Navigators who joined this year!
  • We added two new videos titled Overview of the Divorce Process for Defendants and Overview of the Divorce Process for Plaintiffs. We now have 8 videos on our website!
  • Last but not least, we have 24 active LiveHelp agents! Our team of volunteer law students provides coverage from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

We’re very thankful for all the support we’ve gotten in 2017. We can’t wait for 2018! Look for new content on Minor Guardianship coming soon…

Happy Holidays from the MLHP Team! 

Introducing the NEW Guide to Legal Help!

Monday, November 13, 2017

MLH launched an exciting new tool for people looking for legal help or information – the Guide to Legal Help. The Guide gives visitors referrals and legal information tailored to their legal problem and the resources available to them.

The Guide to Legal Help has many important uses. It can help someone identify and describe a legal problem so they can easily talk about it with advocates, lawyers, or court staff. The Guide directs them to legal information on the Michigan Legal Help website where they can learn more about their legal problem. If they choose, they can use the tools there to easily create necessary court forms.

Most importantly, the Guide gives visitors tailored referrals to Legal Aid or private bar referral services. Legal Aid offices around the state are limited in how many people they can help, and often would-be clients are frustrated when they spend time talking with Legal Aid but can’t get help. The Guide to Legal Help refers people with legal problems to the most appropriate resources for them given their circumstances and the available options in their community. Clients may be directed to a Legal Aid office, or to Michigan’s Counsel and Advocacy Law Line, or to the State Bar of Michigan’s various lawyer search and referral tools.

The Guide to Legal Help also refers people to mediation options where appropriate, and to online dispute resolution options where these are available. It also refers visitors to other resources such as foreclosure housing counselors, government agencies, and domestic violence shelters.

In addition to referring people to self-help and lawyer resources, the Guide has unique screening features that allow it to deliver tailored resources. The Guide refers people to out-of-state Legal Aid websites if they are not from Michigan. It screens for specialized services for elderly people, veterans, and other groups. It alerts visitors to possible eligibility for public benefits they are not receiving, and it directs visitors to the type of legal assistance they need most.

The Guide to Legal Help works on a mobile phone, and if someone can’t access the Internet, they can use the Guide at any Self-Help Center or public library. If someone needs help using the Guide, Michigan Legal Help’s LiveHelp chat service is available, and all Self-Help Center staff will get a special training on how the Guide works. To see the Guide in action, visit michiganlegalhelp.org/guide-to-legal-help.

We hope you’ll check out this new resource. Thank you for using MLH!


New Farmworkers Section Added

Monday, October 9, 2017

MLH recently introduced a new content area: Farmworkers! This new section contains the Farmworker Legal Issues toolkit and 11 articles with information about many legal issues affecting farmworkers in Michigan. This information is provided in cooperation with Farmworker Legal Services (FLS) of Michigan. FLS is a legal aid office with lawyers and other legal staff who provide free legal assistance and referrals to migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout Michigan. Check out our new section and let us know what you think!

MLH Celebrates Five Years!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Can you believe Michigan Legal Help (MLH) is five years old this month? It seems like only yesterday MLH staff were drafting the first articles and planning the original design of MichiganLegalHelp.org. Despite its youth, Michigan Legal Help (MLH) is recognized throughout the state as the most reliable source for free, accurate, up-to-date tools and referrals for civil legal problems. It is also a model for programs developing similar resources across the country. The keys to its success have been the breadth and depth of its content, its outreach efforts, the many elements of the program, the fantastic contributions and support from partners, and the dedication of MLH staff.

In addition to its fifth birthday, this month MLH is also celebrating the Michigan State Bar Foundation’s announcement that MLH Director Angela Tripp is a 2017 recipient of the Access to Justice Award, which honors persons who have significantly advanced access to justice for the poor in Michigan.
The most important component of MLH is the legal information it provides for people with legal problems. New content is always being added to the website, often in response to the requests of visitors. In the last year, MLH has added information about special education, how to make a will, unemployment benefits, and farmworkers’ rights, among others.

MLH works hard to keep everything on the site up to date, which means staying on top of all changes to laws and practices in Michigan. In the past year MLH updated information to reflect the filing fee increase that took effect in 2016, and revised articles and replaced forms as needed to reflect changes to State Court Administrative Office court forms. MLH continues to close in on the goal of translating all of its content into Spanish for publication on its Spanish-language website, AyudaLegaldeMichigan.org.

One of the easiest ways to measure the success of MLH is to look at data about how many people use the resources there. In its first five years, the Michigan Legal Help website had 11.6 million page views and 3.87 million visitors. In July 2017, there were about 29,000 visits per week.  Traffic to the website increased by 20% in MLH’s fifth year.  On MLH, visitors can easily complete the court forms they need in order to resolve their legal problems.  In 2016 MLH visitors completed 86,824 sets of forms. (One “set” may include multiple forms necessary to carry out a legal case.) This is an average of 238 sets of forms completed each day, and represents a 38% increase from 2015.

Another way that MLH helps people is through LiveHelp, an interactive, chat-based form of assisting website users without giving legal advice. From its launch in September 2013, LiveHelp has been available from 11 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. LiveHelp agents, who are trained law student volunteers, interact with website visitors, helping them navigate the website and answering questions that do not require legal advice. In 2016 agents helped 7,775 people, an increase of 119% since 2015.

MLH continues to grow and improve in many aspects beyond the publication of new content. For example, in 2016, MLH hired outside evaluators to assess how accessible the website is to users with vision and other disabilities. On the basis of their recommendations, MLH modified the website layout to improve both usability and accessibility. Also in 2016, MLH broke virtual ground on one of its most ambitious programs to date, the MLH Legal Help Finder. When this feature launches in September 2017, it will guide litigants to the most appropriate resources available to them along the continuum of services available in Michigan, from assisted self-help, to unbundled assistance, to full representation by an attorney. The system will use advanced logic trees to help identify a visitor’s legal problem and what services they qualify for, then direct the user to the most appropriate resources to resolve their problem, given what is available in the community.

Michigan Legal Help has developed and continues to support a network of fifteen Self-Help Centers (SHCs) throughout the state. These are locations where visitors can go to access computers, printers, internet, and legal information (but not advice). In most cases, the centers are staffed by trained Navigators who help visitors find the legal information they need at Michigan Legal Help. 

For each new Self-Help Center, MLH staff conduct an on-site training for personnel from local courts, legal services, libraries, community organizations, and the host location. MLH provides continuing support in the form of quarterly webinars, additional trainings, and news updates. In the last year, MLH opened new SHC sites in Saginaw, Livingston, Alpena, and Grand Traverse counties and is are preparing to open more Centers this year in Jackson, Genesee, and Cass counties.

A critical component of the MLH mission is to build strong partnerships with courts, legal services providers, lawyers, and community organizations to improve access to justice. To this end, MLH staff, and in particular, its director, Angela Tripp, participates in numerous statewide and national committees related to legal services delivery, as well as several SCAO forms committees.

MLH continues to look for ways to increase awareness of its website and SHCs throughout the state. Therefore, MLH staff are always willing to make outreach presentations at organizations of all kinds, from academic settings, to governmental bodies, to community festivals, and beyond. MLH staff also regularly contribute to various publications, including SCAO’s Connections, the Bar Journal, and the Family Law Journal.

MLH is proud of its accomplishments so far, but there is always more work to be done. 

New Education Toolkit

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Michigan Legal Help is pleased to announce a new toolkit in the Education section of our website. The My Child Is Facing Punishment or Expulsion from School toolkit has information for parents of children who receive special services and are facing discipline at school. The toolkit has articles, answers to common questions, and local referrals for issues of special education accommodations, discipline, and student rights. The toolkit also includes a Do-It-Yourself tool for drafting letters to school administrators to petition for special services and dispute discipline. Check it out and tell us what you think!

New Parenting Time Toolkit

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

If your child's other parent files a motion to change parenting time, we now have the tools you need to respond. The new "I Need to Respond to a Motion Regarding Parenting Time" toolkit contains informational articles, common questions, a do-it-yourself tool to create court documents, and a checklist of instructions.

Notice anything different?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You may have noticed that we recently made some changes to Michigan Legal Help. In December 2016, we went into the field, asking real MLH users what they thought about the way we organize content on the website. Based on their answers, we rearranged and renamed some of our legal categories. We hope this will make it even easier for you to find the answers you're looking for. Do you like what we've done? Use the orange button at the top of this page to tell us what you think!

Free Tax Help

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Click this link to the Tax Tips and Information for Low-Income Individuals toolkit to learn what you need to know about the earned income tax credit and other resources available for low-income people filing personal state and federal income taxes. You can also easily find out where to get your taxes done for free. Click this link to Michigan Free Tax Help for more information.