Archive for the 'Resources-Consumer' Category

Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence


Tragically, a staff person was killed on the campus where I work this week. A man she used to be involved with went to her office, shot her to death, and then committed suicide. The victim had taken many steps to protect herself: she had obtained protective orders against the man, she had alerted university police, and she had shown her coworkers his picture and told them to call 911 if they saw him. Still, he found her. (See Seattle Times story.)

Today I read that, ironically or aptly, this is Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Awareness Week on campus. I started looking for more information and found that different organizations have designated April Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (H. Res. 289, a resolution introduced in the House of Representatives last week, would call it National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.)

During my search for information about the event, I found a great self-help resource, by the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs: A Survivor’s Guide to Filing a Civil Lawsuit (2004). It’s a 54-page book (in pdf) that explains the whole process — including long ists of pros and cons (p. 4) to help potential plaintiffs make the decision whether to sue. WCSAP has other resources (for the public and for attorneys) on its legal page.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (part of CDC) takes a public health approach to the problem. See its Sexual Violence fact sheet, with resources for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has links to legal organizations working on the topic here.

bankruptcy help in brooklyn


      Despite its cautionary title, yesterday’s NPR piece from Marketplace Money, “Self-filing for bankruptcy can cost you” (March 23, 2007; listen here) has some good news for those who want or need to file for bankruptcy without a lawyer: the United States Bankruptcy Court, EDNY (Brooklyn) has created a Pro Se Attorney’s Office and the pilot program “may be replicated in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

graphClimbS   Mary Fox currently holds the Pro Se clerk job in the Brooklyn bankruptcy court.  The services are provided in person at the court on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Ms Fox only provides legal information, not legal advice.  She offers two impressions about pro se litigants in the NPR piece:

  • “People will pay thousands of dollars for root canal, but they seriously question whether they should hire an attorney for important, life-altering decisions.”
  • “And a few filers, she says, have really done their homework and are pretty qualified to represent themselves.”

In our prior post bankruptcy law self-help, you can find many free, online resources to help prepare for filing bankruptcy on your own.  For example, the webpage Filing Bankruptcy Without an Attorney (Pro Se), from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia offers help for the pro se litigant, including a 77-page pdf. document on Bankruptcy Basics, explaining the “basics” and process since the new bankruptcy law became effective in October 2005.  

minnesota divorce: the movie


movieFilmN The Minnesota Judicial Branch is constantly adding to its useful Self Help Center.  In addition to several online documents about the divorce process and relevant law, you can now download and view a 26-minute video, How to Start a Divorce. (via Although meant to be viewed as a single presentation, it has been divided for downloading purposes into eight parts:

Part 1: What Will it Cost and How Long will it Take
Part 2: How can a Lawyer and Mediator Help You?
Part 3: Find the Court Forms

Part 4: Starting the Petition  
Part 5: Petition – Finances, Property and Debt  
Part 6: Petition – Child Custody, Parenting Time and support   
Part 7: Petition – Requests to the court and Completing the Summons  
Part 8: Service – Delivering your Forms to Your Spouse and the Final Steps to Divorce 

 antitrustDVD   On the other hand, although it portrays some romantic difficulties and betrayal, Antitrust: the movie (2001) — starring Ryan Phillippe, Claire Forlani, and Tim Robbins — won’t be particularly helpful for learning about either divorce nor antitrust law.   As we’ve been reminding you, however, the Silver Telly Award-winning video Fair Fight in the Marketplace is an excellent, entertaining antitrust primer.  The 30-minute video, which is presented by the American Antitrust Institute, can be viewed online at any time hereFair Fight will soon be available on your tv, on affiliates of the Public Broadcasting System.  You can find the schedule of PBS airings, here, as well as a 30-second promo.  As of March 15, 2007, the broadcast schedule includes:

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preparing for an interview with a lawyer


      The Law Courts Education Society of British Columbia has produced an impressive array of materials for litigants without lawyers, as part of its work “improving access to the justice system through public legal education.”  For example, in addition to the Court Tips Videos we wrote about last night, they’ve written a set of Guidebooks for Representing Yourself in Supreme Court

 podium One of the seventeen Guidebooks currently available has some very useful information that should help pro se or “in person” litigants on either side of our border (as well as the average legal client who has retained a lawyer and doesn’t want to waste valuable billable minutes).  It’s called A Guide to a Successful Interview with a Lawyer.  The Guide “describes four steps to take before you see a lawyer.”  It further explains:

“If you are receiving free legal advice, it is likely that your time with a lawyer will be limited. Generally, “pro bono” appointments are of thirty minute duration. Therefore, it is important that you have all of your pertinent information organized in a fashion that will allow you and your lawyer to make optimal use of this limited time.

“If you follow the four steps in this guide, you will be well prepared and know what to expect when you meet your lawyer. This will help you to make good use of your time and be in a better position to understand your rights.”

Here are the four steps covered in the Interview Guide:   

  • Step 1: Fill out the Information Sheet [a form is provided]
  • Step 2: Prepare your Document List [there’s a Document List form, too]
  • Step 3: Prepare your written statement [your story in chronological point form]
  • Step 4: Going to the interview [be “slow, straightforward, specific, and systematic“]

black check From my experience interviewing clients, I strongly agree with the Guide’s advice: “You need to give the lawyer both the good information and the bad information. . . . The more straightforward you are in the interview, the better advice the lawyer can give you.”

who needs YouTube? watch B.C. self-rep videos


movieFilmN Thanks to the The Law Courts Education Society of British Columbia (Canada), seven online video presentations are now available for self-represented litigants in British Columbia courts.  Called Court Tips: Representing Yourself in Chambers, the series covers the following topics: Presenting Your Case in Chambers; Changing a Child Support Order; Putting Your Best Case Forward; Avoiding the Pitfalls in Family Matters; What to Expect from the Chambers Process; Frequently Asked Questions about Chambers; and What to Expect the Day of the Hearing.  We’re told by a reliable source at that they are “very well done.”

Access for People with Disabilities


I just listened to a podcast from the King County Law Library about disability rights law (Jan. 29, 2007). I’d like to share two things with Shlep readers:

(1) The podcast interviews the judge who was cochair of the committee that produced Ensuring Access for People with Disabilities: A Guide for Courts (Aug. 2006). This is a good resource not just for courts, but for people with disabilities and those who work with or serve them. It has a brief overview of types of disabilities — emphasizing that individuals need to be treated individually (a person with low vision who can read enlarged type needs a different accommodation than another person with low vision). It has practical advice for the inclusion of people with disabilities as parties, witnesses, jurors, attorneys. (The guide was excerpted in the August 2006 issue of the Washington State Bar News.)

(2) These are the sites the podcast’s producers recommend for information on disability rights law:

news and new stuff from HALT


 The newest HALT eJournal (Feb. 26, 2007) has information about two programs that increase access to courts and about its growing Everyday Law Series of brochures.

  1. New videos explain small-claims process Thanks to a $2,200 grant from the (unified, of course) State Bar of Michigan, “Small claims courts became a little easier to navigate for Saginaw residents after the Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee created videotapes to explain the process. The four tapes show how to file a claim, defend against a claim, collect a judgment and what a staged small claims hearing looks like.”  (see The Saginaw News, January 28, 2007)  The tapes are available at all five branches of the Saginaw Public Library.  A small claims clinic is also presented at the County Governmental Center. [Ed. Note: It would be nice if the videos could be available online through the court or Library website.]
  2. graphClimbS Extended Family Court hours in Maricopa County, AZ.  For about a month now, family court in Phoenix, Arizona, has had evening hours Tuesday-Friday until 9 p.m. and Saturday hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (see Superior Court News Release, “Superior Court Announces NIght and Saturday Hours,” Jan. 23, 2007)  “The purpose of moving proceedings into the evening and on weekends, is to provide people who work, attend school and have other demands during the day with a timely and more convenient alternative to resolve their pending cases, without adding undue financial and emotional stress to the parents and children from daytime conflicts,” said Presiding Family Court Judge Norman Davis.   The extended hours will be primarily scheduled only at the request of litigants, unless the court needs to schedule additional matters to better utilize court resources.  A dozen programs will be available for Family Court litigants including: decree on demand; support modification; support enforcement; parenting time enforcement; hearings on orders of assignment; hearings on pending orders of protection; parenting conferences; mediation; early resolution conferences; Self-Service Center; and educational seminars.

HALTBestBuyS  HALT also announced publication of a new Everyday Law Series brochure: Getting Your Credit Report.  If you need money from a lending institution, HALT says “it’s a good idea to get a free copy of your credit report beforehand to make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date.” Getting Your Credit Report, identifies and answers common questions people have about credit reports and how to gain access to them. Besides clicking the above link, you can write to HALT for a free copy.

  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles every American to one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. As the HALT brochure notes, you can contact Annual Credit Report Request Service
    to receive your free annual credit report. To purchase a copy of your credit report, contact: Equifax: 800-685-1111; Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742); Trans Union: 800-916-8800.

          Below the fold, read about two other brochures:  Do-It-Yourself Law Reviews: Taxes (which compares the most popular tax preparation programs) and Filing for an Uncontested Divorce (which introduces you to the process of obtaining an uncontested divorce, and discusses doing so pro se).

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Elder Mediation


Many of our families include one or more adults who need extra care — because they’re suffering from dementia, their mobility is limited, they’re just a little frail and forgetful. Often these adults are elderly — but not always. In my family, it’s a middle-aged sister who has been disabled by strokes and some other problems. Fortunately, my brother, sister-in-law, and partner are all on the same page — and my sister is pleased with the arrangements we’ve made. But in some families there are difficult conflicts: dad wants to stay in his home (even though he can’t handle stairs anymore, let alone get to the grocery store), daughter wants him to live in her home in Missoula, son wants him in an assisted living center in Eugene. Enter mediation.

See Mediators Save Caregivers’ Relationships: Professionals Can Help Siblings Make The Tough Health Care Decisions For Aging Parents, CBS News, Feb. 20, 2007. A list of Mediation Resources for Caregivers is here.

Thanks: Idealawg.

protection for door-to-door purchasers


 doorFrontF  St. John’s law professor Jeff Sovern had a post this week at Consumer Law & Policy Blog on the continued relevance of door-to-door sales regulation (Feb. 21, 2007).  Although “Door-to-door sales were more common in the pre-spam, pre-telemarketing era,” Jeff suggests that the Do Not Call Registry may have spurred increased use of door-to-door (“field selling”) by marketers.   This effect is also suggested by the New York Times article “For Youth, a Grim Tour on Magazine Crews,” Feb. 21, 2007, which outlines terrible abuse of the young people used in door-to-door crews (and has links to related materials).

A CNN/AP article from November 2003 asserts that the DNC Registry has in fact produced a resurgence in door-to-door sales. “Do-not-call list revives door-to-door sales”  states:

“Now that the national do-not-call list makes it impossible to reach millions of potential customers, some marketing companies are returning to an old-fashioned alternative: door-to-door salespeople. . .

“Other factors besides the do-not-call list have prompted companies to put sales staff back on the street. Unsolicited e-mail annoys most computer users, and improved spam-blockers make the tactic less effective. And it’s hard to persuade customers to visit a company’s Web site.”  . . .

“But door-to-door has its limits because it’s expensive and inefficient, said Walter Janowski, an analyst for the Gartner Group in Stamford, Connecticut.” . . .

doorFront “Door-to-door sales people also can run into similar problems as telemarketers—laws, most of them local, that limit or ban soliciting. Some residential communities and urban apartment complexes prohibit it. Some towns require permits or have other restrictions, as in Rockville Centre, New York, which keeps a “do-not-knock” list that residents can join.”

Localities have tried several tactics to protect residents from door-step solicitation and canvassing.  However, in Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc’y of N.Y., Inc. v. Vill. of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150 (2002), the U. S. Supreme Court struck down as a violation of free speech rights, an ordinance requiring permits and pre-registration for all kinds of canvassing and solicitation.  Nonetheless, the provisions of the ordinance allowing residents to bar uninvited canvassers from their property by filing a “No Solicitation Registration Form” and posting a “No Solicitation” sign were not challenged in Watchtower v. Stratton, and the Court indicated that such regulation would be permitted.

NoSolicitationS  Do Not Knock laws have, therefore, been enacted in localities around the nation, including Parma, OH (text); Berkeley, CA; New Brunswick, NJ; and Rockville Center, NY.   Under such laws, the resident must ask to be placed on the local Do Not Knock or No Solicitation list, and display a sticker.  The application form allows the resident to designate various exceptions.  If interested in DNK protection, check with your municipality to see whether it has a Do Not Knock list.  As the Watchtower Court reminds us, posting your own No Solicitation sign (and refusing to come to the door or engage in conversation) will often be more than adequate protection.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule  doorFront doorFrontF

The consumer’s most potent protection against making pressured or otherwise unwise purchases at home is the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule (formally known as Rule Concerning Cooling-Off Period for Sales Made at Homes or at Certain Other Locations; 16 CFR Part 429).  It is explained in plain English in the FTC fact sheet The Cooling Off Rule: When and How to Cancel a Sale.  In brief:

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Cooling-Off Rule gives you three days to cancel purchases of $25 or more. Under the Cooling-Off Rule, your right to cancel for a full refund extends until midnight of the third business day after the sale.

The Cooling-Off Rule applies to sales at the buyer’s home, workplace or dormitory, or at facilities rented by the seller on a temporary or short-term basis, such as hotel or motel rooms, convention centers, fairgrounds and restaurants. The Cooling-Off Rule applies even when you invite the salesperson to make a presentation in your home.

The item purchased must be $25 or more, and there are several exceptions (e.g., sales made entirely by mail or telephone, sales involving real estate, insurance, or securities). So, please read the Fact Sheet to learn of the exceptions, your rights to information, how to cancel, and what to do if the seller does not comply. 

  • For an interesting look at outlandish door-to-door magazine sales practices (and a rant against the mistreatment of animals raised as livestock), check out David Liss’ 2006 novel The Ethical Assassin.

 houseG  Below the fold, we’ve listed some of the materials you will find linked in the FTC Consumer Information “Home” Menu.  

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battles everywhere over payday loans


tight rope    Payday lending is a hot issue in legislatures and editorial rooms across the nation (see Google News; our lengthy prior post discusses the issues and links to many resources; update: WaPo on Payday Loans and PR strategies, Feb. 25, 2007).  It would be hard to find a better case study in the process of “consumer protection” regulation than the maneuvering and arguments of all the stakeholders in the payday lending debate.  The problem is how to balance the goal of traditional consumer advocates to prevent predatory lending and the victimizing of vulnerable consumers with the desire to give consumers marketplace options and businesses the freedom to serve and profit from consumer demand.

  • The National Conference of State Legislatures has a chart of state laws relating to payday lending, and a list of pending legislation.
  • As the Sioux Fall, S.D., Argus Leader explains, critics say: “Payday lenders offer short-term loans to consumers, typically to be repaid with their next paycheck. Strapped borrowers often struggle to repay, founder in a cycle of debt and repeatedly roll the loans over, racking up fees of 300 percent or more on an annual basis.”  On the other hand, the payday advance industry and its supporters reply that “the industry fills a needed gap. Many people who have bad credit and pressing money needs don’t qualify for traditional bank loans. Short-term lenders serve that group.” 

According to the Sioux Fall, S.D., Argus Leader, “more than 50 bills aimed at clamping down on payday lenders have been introduced in statehouses across the country.”  Bills passed in Virginia last week (Washington Post, “House Passes Payday Lending Reform Bill Without a Rate Cap,” Feb. 17, 2007; via CLPBlog) and South Dakota this week (Argus Leader, “Lawmakers limit payday loans: Borrowers could get only $500 from one lender,” Feb. 22, 2007), that would limit the dollar amount of loans to each borrower.  Many consumer advocates say that is not enough and want a rate cap on payday loans, similar to the 36% annual rate cap that exists now in federal law for military personnel (and which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed this week for California’s armed services members). 

SoapBox   Although it is rather late in the legislative season, the payday advance industry has released its own self-regulation proposal this week, in an effort to prevent the passage of laws that will hurt their business.  See Argus Leader, “Payday lenders try to avoid regulation: Industry volunteers to better police itself,” Feb. 23, 2007; Washington Post, “Payday-Loan Group Tries To Fend Off Restrictions,” Feb. 22, 2007.  As the Washington Post reported yesterday:

“Under the program announced yesterday, members of the Community Financial Services Association of America, which represents such payday lenders as Advance America and Check ‘n Go, agreed to give strapped borrowers at least one opportunity a year to extend the term of their loans by a few weeks at no extra charge, if borrowers notify them before the loans are due. The industry has backed similar plans in several states, including Virginia. . . .

“The trade group said 46 members of Congress signed a letter to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, supporting its self-regulatory effort.

questionDude  “The group yesterday began airing an ad on BET, Food Network and other television networks, telling people to ‘please borrow only what you feel comfortable paying back when its due’.”

The Argus Leader added that “payday lenders this week volunteered to quit promoting loans for vacations and other “frivolous” spending.”  WaPo cites Del. Onzlee Ware (D-Roanoke), a supporter of the capless Virginia bill, as saying that payday loans “give poor residents a choice instead of having to rely on charities and churches when they need cash.”  In South Dakota, the Argus Leader tells us: “Sen. Tom Dempster, the Sioux Falls Republican who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, said the [capless] South Dakota legislation is an earnest attempt to curb predatory lending without cutting off a sometimes necessary avenue to credit.”

This is a fascinating debate and legislative process.  The industry has fervent critics and supporters in every legislature (makes some cynics want to learn more about campaign contributions to particular legislators).  Political junkies, bleeding heart consumer advocates, government-hating libertarians, coldhearted free-marketeers, and all the rest of us will find a lot to chew over and argue about by following the links in this post.

  • Go to the website of the Community Financial Services Association of America to see the payday advance industry’s best arguments and “best practices” proposals. In their Consumer Guide they conclude that “Consequently, payday advances are inappropriate when used as a long-term credit solution for ongoing budget management.”
  • Go to the website of The Center for Responsible Lending to see the arguments against payday loans and suggestions for regulation and for alternative credit sources.  Our prior post has other links.
  • thumbUp  At the weblog Credit Slips, you’ll find an interesting piece titled “Talking to a Payday Lender,” (Feb. 15, 2007; via CLPBlog, Feb. 15, 2007) in which consumer law professor Bob Lawless discusses his students’ experiences serving as mock legislators facing the problem of payday lending.  As part of the project they did field work posing as prospective loan clients.  The Comments are quite interesting, too.


West/Lexis Access for the Patrons


This might have been mentioned before in earlier posts, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. 

By now you are probably aware that lawyers rely on the big legal databases of West and Lexis to do their research.  These provide access to state and federal cases and statutes and important secondary sources.  You are also probably aware that it is pretty expensive to use these resources.  And a couple of pro se patrons have complained that they feel pretty outgunned going up against lawyers who use such databases.

However, you may not be aware that your state or county court law library might have patron access to either West or Lexis.  This can give you good search capability of state and federal statutory and case law.  And its usually free of charge (print outs are another matter).  Certainly, these patron access services do not give you the full capability that West and Lexis are capable of.  But they are pretty darn helpful.

If you need to research an issue, contact your state or county court law library to see if they have patron access to a major database.  That will help level the playing field.

when can you leave children at home alone?


        As often happens, law librarian Laura Orr covered an interesting and important topic last week at her Oregon Legal Research weblog: in her posting “Babysitting and the Law,” she addresses the question, “what age a child must be before he or she can be left home alone,” as well as at what age a child may be a babysitter.  Laura came to a conclusion that seems to be the consensus viewpoint: “[T]here may not be a definitive age for babysitting or for being left alone, but more a matter of training, maturity, and other factors.”   Laura’s posting offers links to Oregon materials on the topic. 

HomeAloneMovie  At ExpertLaw, Aaron Larson says:

“You can check with your state’s Department of Social Services to see if your state has a minimum age for leaving children unsupervised. You are likely to find that there is no specific age, although the common recommendation is that children under twelve be provided with appropriate supervision while their parents are away from home. There may also be a suggestion that an older sibling, even if old enough to be left at home alone, is not necessarily an appropriate babysitter for younger siblings.” 

 There are many good online sources with guidance for parents wondering whether their children are ready to stay home alone and how to make the experience as safe as possible for the children.  For example, see The Public School Parent Network‘s latchkey webpage; Children at Home Alone, a two-page brochure from Prevent Child Abuse New York; and the NSPCC’s Leaving Children at Home Alone.  [Of course, Macaulay Culkin’s experiences in the 1990 movie Home Alone were very funny but not very edifying for parents.]

podium   The most comprehensive and up-to-date resource appears to be the Children Home Alone and Babysitter Age Guidelines from the National Child Care Information Center.  For example, it notes that Illinois and Maryland now have statutes directly addressing the Home Alone issue, summarizes their laws, and links to more information.  After saying that States may have guidelines or recommendations about when a child is considered old enough to care for him/herself or to care for other children, the NCCIC advises that “these guidelines are most often distributed through child protective services and are administered at the county level.”  It then helpfully adds: “Contact Child Welfare Information Gateway at 800-394-3366, and staff there will refer you to your local child protective services agency to learn about age guidelines in your area.”

On the NCCIC Guidelines page, you will also find:

  • National organizations 
  • Examples of child supervision guidelines;
  • Examples of babysitter guidelines;
  • Demographic information about the number of children in self-care; and
  • Information about how to prepare children to stay home alone and to be babysitters.

pennyS  Finally, check out this Nolo article, for tips on Finding a babysitter or nanny.   In addition, you can learn about the American Red Cross babysitter training classes here, and click to see The Super Sitter, a booklet of helpful tips and safety information produced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  [update (Feb. 28, 2007): LaborLawTalk Blog has state-by-state information on babysitting laws.]

post-valentine divorce self-help


 heartarrowV According to (which connects prospective clients with lawyers), there is a large increase in the number of people looking for divorce lawyers in the days surrounding Valentine’s Day. “LegalMatch again sees Valentine’s effect”  (Feb. 14, 2007)  The pressure to express love to a partner, or the idealized version of marital bliss that is displayed around February 14th may be the cause. (via LegalBlogWatch) Whatever the reason, this seems like a good time for shlep to collect information on where to go to find divorce-related self-help resources.

Divorce is, of course, a matter of state law.  Click to find links to divorce statutes by state, and summaries comparing the states, from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.  If you are considering or plan to file for divorce on your own, you can find out whether your state has divorce forms available by using the links on the NCSC State Court Forms Page (and see MWDG‘s links).  NCSC also makes it easy to find out whether your state judiciary offers Self-Help/Information Resources and Centers.

  • For general information about divorce law (covering topics such as fault, child custody and support, pensions and retirement plans, marital property distribution, and more), we suggest taking a look at LegalZoom’s Divorce Library, which includes a Divorce Glossary, and Divorce FAQ.  In addition, has numerous articles at its Divorce Resource Center (as well as books and kits for do-it-yourselfers). also offers general information on many divorce law issues. 
  • handshakeMF Of course, as LegalZoom correctly says: “If you and your spouse can agree to settle your issues, rather than going to a trial and having a judge decide them for you, the divorce process can be smoother, simpler, and much less expensive. Studies have shown that active participation by the spouses in settling a divorce is the most important factor in avoiding post-divorce conflict and fostering cooperation in parenting and support issues.”
  • Because divorcing is much more a personal, family, and financial crisis than a legal one, you might want to look at this page with links to Other divorce-related resources, and the comprehensive materials at MWDG.

Self-Representation:  Our “should I go it alone” page may be helpful to anyone trying to decide whether to handle their divorce without a lawyer.   In addition, if you scroll down this page, you will find a section titled “Is self representation right for you? Take this assessment to see,” which is focused on divorce and was adapted from Unbundling Your Divorce, by M. Sue Talia (which is discussed below).  The MWDG weblog also has information on representing yourself in a divorce.

 Divorce Mediation:  In our posting “divorce mediation: mutual self-help,” you’ll find a discussion of the advantages of using mediation to resolve divorcing issues.  Mediation can work for couples who seem far apart on many issues, so long as they both sincerely want to split in a civilized manner (to avoid “the divorce from hell”) and want — even if reluctantly — to find a resolution that will lead to a finalized divorce.   If your courts have self-help centers, they are very likely to offer information about mediating divorce and other family law disputes (often called “alternative dispute resolution”).

 Unbundled Divorce:  “Unbundling” means hiring a lawyer to perform only specific tasks agreed to in advance by lawyer and client.  It allows a client much more control over the process and the cost.  shlep has often discussed the advantages of unbundled legal services.  Expert divorce lawyer and private judge M. Susan Talia has written a very good discussion of why unbundling makes sense in the divorce context, at her divorce from hell website. 

UnbundlingDivorceTaliaN  M. Susan Talia has also rewritten her 1997 book A Client’s Guide to Limited Legal Services, with the new title Unbundling Your Divorce: How to Find a Lawyer to Help you Help Yourself (Nexus Publishing Company, 2006, 122 pp.; ISBN 0-9651075-4-X, $14.95), which “is designed for litigants who want to limit the involvement of their attorney in their divorce, and do part of the legal work themselves. It tells them how to determine if they are good candidates for self-representation, how to spot the pitfalls and guard against them, how to find a lawyer to coach them, and where to turn for help.”  You will soon be able to find excerpts from the book here.  For ordering information, contact the author.


Getting Wheels


My local paper recently ran a story about some salespeople at a car dealership who fleeced a mentally ill man who came to the dealership with $30,000 in cash. They sold him a truck (worth much less), went to his apartment to steal the rest of his money, and then one bought the truck back at a big profit. Needless to say, they are being prosecuted. How drugs and greed tainted auto dealership, Seattle Times, Feb. 9, 2007.

That’s a horrible story, but what’s link to self-help law? What caught my eye was a sidebar: Legal recourse limited in state for remorseful buyers of autos.

Roadster - little redI thought that, since a car is one of the biggest purchases most people make (second only to a house, and many people never buy a house!), it might be worth listing some resources about buying cars.

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