Thursday, January 13, 2005

Legal Research Tip 10: The Basics of Filing a Court Action

These are the back issues of the e-newsletter Legal Research Tips from 2004. Since these tips are a little longer, each back issue will be published separately. Starting in 2005, all issues will be published here and no longer distributed via email.

Legal Research Tip 10: The Basics of Filing a Court Action
One of the common questions we receive in the library is about how to begin a court action. Here are some fundamental questions we will ask you in order to direct you to the most relevant and helpful resources. (This information is designed for use by pro se (self-represented) litigants.)

1. What do you want to do, or, What goal are you trying to achieve?
For example, do you want to file for divorce, change a custody order, or start a paternity action? Or maybe you're trying to collect money from someone? The answers to these questions determine the type of court that will hear your case and the correct procedures or forms that will assist in your goal.

2. Will you need help with your case?
For example, do you need help filling out forms or understanding all of the aspects or issues in your case? Or maybe your case is quite complicated and it would be in your best interests to retain an attorney? If so, we can refer you to assistance programs in the courthouse or agencies in the community who offer legal help, some for little or no cost.

3. Three Questions from
Only you can decide whether or not to pursue a legal or court action. Library staff will not advise or interpret the law for your specific situation. Nolo is a company that strives to help nonlawyers understand legal resources and situations. Here are three questions they suggest you ask yourself when considering whether to file a lawsuit:
A - Do I have a good case?
B - Is there no other way to achieve my goal (for example, by proposing a compromise settlement or going to mediation)?
C - Assuming a lawsuit is my best or only option, can I collect if I win?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, you probably won't want to sue.(These questions are discussed in detail at )