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Legal self-help portal grants Kentuckians access to free resources, form assistance

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More than 107,000 people have used the portal since it quietly opened last year. Now the groups behind the tool are hoping it will help more Kentuckians.

Kentucky’s judicial branch officially launched its online Legal Self-Help Portal last week. It’s designed to assist people who are handling their own legal matters — rather than using an attorney — in navigating the state’s court system.

The free tool, created in collaboration with the Kentucky Court of Justice and the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission, features an interactive program that helps people fill out forms for a variety of legal situations including small claims, uncontested divorce, name changes, child support and expungements, among others.

State supreme court justice Michelle Keller chairs the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission. She said there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people trying to access courts without the assistance of an attorney over the last 10 to 15 years.

“We have people who just literally do not have the means to pay for counsel every time they have a court problem,” Keller said. “And there's, quite frankly, some court problems that don't require counsel.”

Keller said the portal helps people traverse the state’s legal system without overburdening its judges, clerks and attorneys. The matters that can be addressed through the online tool, she said, are situations that the commission has called on Kentucky Bar Association members to handle pro bono, or situations that legal service and legal aid organizations have tried to help people accomplish.

“[The organizations] cannot take everyone that has a legal problem. So these were people that were falling through the cracks that could not be helped by legal aid, and were just trying to help themselves,” Keller said. “These are folks that have real legal needs, but have trouble getting, literally, in the door of the courthouse.”

The Legal Self-Help Portal offers guided interviews that walks users through a series of questions, depending on their legal situation. It then uses those responses to fill out legal forms that can then be filed with local courts.

Glenda Harrison, the executive director of the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission, said this tool can help many people who aren’t familiar with the legal system.

“By giving people access to the courts and feeling like they can participate in what happens to them, it really does give people confidence in the system,” she said.

Since its soft launch in March 2023, over 100,000 different users have accessed the online tool.

More information on other legal resources is also available via the Legal Self-Help Portal.
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