LawHelpNY and the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program are excited to announce an important new service to New Yorkers navigating the Family Court system. The organizations have partnered to provide help via LiveHelp, a live chat program run by LawHelpNY, to visitors on the Families and Children pages of CourtHelp (www.nycourthelp.gov), the New York State Unified Court System’s website for unrepresented litigants.
LawHelpNY (www.LawHelpNY.org), a collection of online legal information and referral Internet portals for low and moderate income New Yorkers, and the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program first partnered in 2015 to offer the LiveHelp service on the foreclosure pages of the CourtHelp website.
Since 2010, LiveHelp operators have assisted individuals visiting the LawHelpNY website. LawHelpNY is proud to now announce the expansion of the LiveHelp service to assist visitors on the Family and Children pages of the CourtHelp website (www.nycourthelp.gov/family).
The LiveHelp service assists CourtHelp visitors by connecting them to volunteers who chat with them in real-time. LiveHelp volunteers, primarily law students and law graduates, are trained to help visitors clarify their legal issue and provide legal education materials, links to self-help tools and referrals to free legal services.
This expansion also capitalizes on a long-term partnership between LiveHelp and the nonprofit Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT). LIFT, an organization dedicated to enhancing access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, community education and compassionate guidance, has supplemented the LawHelpNY LiveHelp service by offering assistance via live chat several hours each week (both on LawHelpNY as well as their own website, liftonline.org). This collaboration allows for an even deeper level of assistance to those with Family Court concerns who access LiveHelp during LIFT hours.
In less than 2 months, LiveHelp operators and LIFT hotline staff have helped over 600 people visiting the Families and Children pages on CourtHelp.
Overwhelmingly, individuals in Family Court proceedings in New York State appear in court without counsel. Given the high stakes involved, and the anxiety and stress that accompany such proceedings, services that connect individuals to volunteers trained to help them find resources and legal assistance are invaluable. Covering the topics of child support, custody, visitation, adoption, and paternity, the pages now offering LiveHelp represent some of the most heavily trafficked areas of the CourtHelp website, with over a million and a quarter page views in 2016.
Importantly, these pages also include the landing sites for several DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Forms programs created by the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program and hosted on LawHelp Interactive. DIY Forms allow people without attorneys to create court-approved petitions that can be printed and filed with a judge. In the first four weeks of the expanded service, LiveHelp volunteers and LIFT staff have helped over 300 individuals accessing LiveHelp through the CourtHelp website.
This project is funded by the New York State Bar Foundation, and an LSC (Legal Services Corporation) Technology Initiative Grant awarded to Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.
LiveHelp Service Hours
LiveHelp service is available Monday to Friday, 9 am to 9 pm.
Visitors can receive additional assistance from LIFT operators Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12 pm to 3 pm.