Legal Aid of W.Va. announces WV Law Help

CHARLESTON -- Legal Aid of West Virginia is pleased to announce the launch of "WV Law Help," an online system for people to create their own family court documents in West Virginia.

Like popular "do your own taxes" software, the WV Law Help system works by giving a series of questions on screen for the user to fill in. When all the questions are answered, the WV Law Help system will generate legal forms that can be filed in court and used in a case. Also printed out are instructions about what to do with the forms, and tips on handling your own case.

"For a number of years our court system has provided paper fill-in-the-blank forms for people to do their own cases," said Bruce Perrone, the lawyer at Legal Aid who coordinated the project. "You can get those at the clerk's office or from the Supreme Court website.

"With the new online system, there are two major advantages. First, the system can eliminate unnecessary questions. For example, if the user clicks that there are no children of the marriage, they won't see any more questions about children or child custody or child support or parenting time.

"Second, the Law Help system can give on-screen explanations and guidance to help people understand exactly what information is needed by the court system. The end result should be that the papers are more accurate so the case can move faster and smoother," said Perrone. "We hope the judges are going to like it as much as the litigants."

The system is being launched with legal forms to file, or respond to, several types of cases: divorce cases, allocation of parenting time cases, and modifications of previous court orders. Proposed Parenting Plans, and Financial Disclosure Statements, both of which are used in many types of Family Court cases, are also included in the system.

The WV Law Help system is available at the Legal Aid web site at www.lawv.net.

Funded by a special grant through the Legal Services Corporation to expand the access of low income people to the court system, the WV Law Help system will continue adding other legal forms and documents to the system, and to expand beyond Family Court documents. In 2010, Legal Aid of West Virginia experienced a 20 percent increase in demand for services statewide.

"WV Law Help" was developed as a response to this increase in demand for services. Following national trends, other states such as Washington, Maine, California and New York offer similar do-it-yourself methods.

Some frequently asked questions about WV Law Help:

* How Does "WV Law Help" Work? Go to the Legal Aid of West Virginia web site at www.lawv.net. Click "Interactive Legal Forms." Choose the form you want. Answer a series of questions, moving through several screens. When you've finished all the screens, click to create the form you need, print the form, and file it in court.

* Who Is "WV Law Help" For? Anyone who doesn't have a lawyer to represent them in a family court case may find WV Law Help to be valuable.

* Do I Have To Be Client At Legal Aid To Use The System? No. WV Law Help is available through the Legal Aid web site, to anyone who wants to use it. All documents generated will be printed with a note that they were created using the LAWV Law Help System.

* Does "WV Law Help" Mean I Don't Need A Lawyer? No. It's almost always smarter and better to have a lawyer if you can. If you can't get a lawyer, "WV Law Help" can help guide you through the 'do-it-yourself' method.

* How Much Does It Cost To Use "WV Law Help"? Nothing. It's free. Just go online, answer the questions and create your form.

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