Wayne court video takes mystery out of divorce filing

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Seeking a divorce?

The Wayne County Circuit Court is making it easier for those looking to get unhitched.

Just click on an instructional video on how to file.

“As the court serves an increasingly high number of (self-filers) in the family division (upwards 68 percent of all divorce cases in Michigan have at least one unrepresented party), the informational divorce videos ... will be instrumental in assisting parties who cannot afford an attorney by providing the tools necessary to navigate the complex processes that the court is required to oversee,” said Judge Susan L. Hubbard of the court’s domestic division.

The 11/2-minute video can be accessed by logging on to the court’s website at 3rdcc.org. The videos also will be accessible through the Michigan Legal Help and Michigan Judicial Institute websites. The video does not give legal advice but gives self-help information on obtaining a divorce.

But Dennis Zamplas, founder of the Law Firm of Victoria in Birmingham, cautions that while the video might be fine to learn about divorce and to familiarize yourself with terms associated with a divorce filing, the legal work should be left to lawyers.

“We have a handful of people who have used the Internet (to file for divorce) come in and the story is tragic. The results (of the divorce filing) are disastrous,” Zamplas said. “They need an attorney. It’s very difficult to succeed through a divorce without an attorney.”

Zamplas said without an attorney to advise a client on issues such as child custody matters, housing, 401(k)s and pension, a person can get “blindsided and you can get ruined for life.”

An Oakland County Circuit Court official said while that court doesn’t offer an instructional video it does have a similar program.

“It’s an assistance clinic for helping people,” said David Bilson, the deputy court administrator for the Oakland County Circuit Court.

The Macomb County Circuit Court does have not an instructional video or similar help program, court officials said.

Angela Tripp , the co-managing attorney for the Michigan Poverty Law Program and project manager for the Michigan Legal Help Program, said people represented themselves in nearly half of the divorce cases in Michigan in 2013.

“This need is not unique to Michigan, and neither are these resources,” Tripp said. “These resources are not revolutionary or brand new, but they are a very important part of ensuring that everyone has access to justice, regardless of their income.’’

The Wayne County instructional video is financed by the Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Office’s Court Performance Innovation Fund which offers grants to pay for technology that enhances the public’s use of courts.


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