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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

TexasLawHelp.org - Website Revamped

 By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

TexasLawHelp.org, is a website designed to provide legal information to low-income Texas residents. The major subjects are family law, consumer, civil rights, crime victims, employment and disability.  It is sponsored by the, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Texas Access to Justice Commission, Legal Services Corporation, Texas Legal Services Center,Travis County Law Library, and legal aid organizations in Texas.

For librarians who serve pro se (self- represented) patrons, the site has been invaluable in providing information to our patrons. Traditional published legal forms are geared to lawyers and must be completed by word processing programs. The information and forms provided by TexasLawHelp.org are delivered with legal information and instructions in lay terms and can be completed by hand, if necessary.  It seems that Texas courts, especially the family courts, readily accept these forms. I started working on an interactive form and found it to work smoothly. The useris asked a series of questions before the completed document is generated.

I referred a patron to the site yesterday, and found a substantially revamped and expanded presence. I easily found the desired form, an "application for appointment of counsel" in a family law parental termination case.  New features include self-help videos, interactive forms for protective orders and divorces, court information and news, and expanded information in Vietnamese. The site connects users to a site called weownthedream.org which helps determine if one is eligible for deferred action for childhood arrivals.

Example of interactive form builder: Affidavit of Inability to Pay Court Costs