Friday, May 27, 2005

Legal Research Tip 15: Finding Forms

Welcome to the next issue of the DCLRC E-Newsletter "Legal Research Tips"! You can view back issues of these tips through other posts in this blawg. Enjoy!

Need help finding a form for some legal or court action?
Here's a guide to help you exhaust your search:

1. Is there a mandatory form on the Court System's website? Check to make sure. Mandatory court forms are for use by all state residents. If there is a form for your purposes on the mandatory list, you must use it. Also check the statutes, as many times the language that is to go into forms is specified in the statute about the topic. For example, the summons form is in statute section 801.095.

2. No mandatory form? Is there a county-specific form that your county court wants you to use? For example, many family law forms, while soon to be available through the state court system, are currently only available on a county by county basis. Check your county's Clerk of Circuit Court's office to be sure. For Dane County, check their listing of court forms online.

3. Still not finding the form you need? Check on the State Law Library's legal and government forms page for links to forms on the Internet. These links include forms on state agency websites, law-related websites, and other courts' form websites.

4. Still nothing? Stop into a law library to check form manuals in the collection. Two good examples are the WI Civil Litigation Manual and the System Book for Family Law. Both contain many sample forms that you can use as a guide to draft your own. By "sample" form, I mean those forms that insert information in the blanks, instructing you what should be included in the form, where to file it, and the form's purposes. Many people make a copy of the form and just "white-out" the blanks and insert their own information, but it does a look a bit nicer if you can re-draft it using the sample as a guide.

5. Sometimes there are no forms for certain court or legal actions. Those are times when a letter addressing the court will usually suffice. In the letter you need to indicate the case number, the parties' names, what action you want to take, and, usually, the reasons behind your action or evidence supporting it. Signing and dating your letter in front of a notary isn't a bad idea either. This is to be used as a last resort, after you have thoroughly searched for a form through these other steps AND called a law library for help.

*If you need help locating a form, call, email or stop into a law library.