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Proper do-it-yourself lawyering now easier at Becker County Law Library

Bill Wilson runs the Becker County Law Library. Now help will be available for filling out legal forms correctly. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

According to law, everyone has the right to represent themselves in a court of law.

And now the Becker County Law Library is helping residents better prepare for the civil legal system if they choose not to hire a lawyer.

“Forms are now available, put out by people who know what they’re doing,” Law Librarian Bill Wilson said.

The law library, which is located in the downstairs of the Becker County Courthouse and is open to the public, hosts a Self-Help Clinic each Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. with a professional from the Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota.

While qualified people will be there to help make sure all legal forms are filled out correctly, they are not there to give legal advice.

In a form that Wilson hands out to those using the law library for paperwork, he says, “Although you are not required to have an attorney fill out the forms, it is often beneficial to have someone with legal training review your forms. This should be done after you have filled them out, but before you file them with court administration.”

The Self-Help Clinic is new to Becker County. It has been used in larger counties, though.

“We’ll try it here and see what happens,” he said.

The forms that people will need can be for anything from initiating actions for a divorce or dissolution, petitions for change of name and motions to modify child custody, parenting time and child support. There are also forms available for eviction actions, rent escrows, various landlord-tenant issues, as well as some guardianship and conservatorship issues.

Forms are available online or at the court administrator’s office. There is a computer located in the courthouse lobby near the court administration window, which can be used for court-related items at no charge.

Having these forms filled out correctly before submitting them to court administration can save a lot of time and hassle. Wilson said that if they are filled out incorrectly, it can lead to a case being dismissed. The waiting period to try again can be quite lengthy, too.

“These are tailored to what the court needs to know,” he said of the forms.

This new program is funded through the law library fee that is tacked onto any court procedure.

“It’s not new taxes and we’re not hitting up the county,” he said.

The library, which anyone can use free of charge, is equipped with shelves and shelves of law books and a computer to access even more information. It is equipped with Westlaw and WestlawNext.              

The Self-Help Clinic will be available in the Becker County Law Library each Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m., beginning on Thursday, Jan. 2.

The Law Library is open and available to the general public Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The only exception to the schedule occurs when the courthouse is closed on a weekday due to a holiday.

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