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.