Forms and Document Assembly

What Is a Court-Based Forms and Document Assembly Program? An online court-based forms and instructions program provides easy-to-use, standardized forms and instructions for the most frequent procedural situations. Document assembly software works as an interactive program that uses the answers provided by the litigants to create personalized forms which are ready for filing. These programs are user friendly and documents can be saved to make changes later.  Once finalized the forms can be printed or filed electronically.

What is the Benefit of Using Standardized Online Forms and Document Assembly? Courts with forms programs and document assembly systems find that judges and court staff will spend less time explaining filing requirements and will have more complete and relevant information.  In addition case processing time and costs can be reduced by deploying these document assembly systems and electronic filing programs. These programs are often focused on the self-represented, but they increase efficiency for lawyers and the court in all cases, including those in which the parties are represented.

For additional information see the following resources:

Please login to see the previously recorded 90-minute Forms Development webinar, October 16th, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Writing for Self Represented Litigants:  A guide for Maryland’s courts and civil legal services providers . Maryland Access to Justice Commission. (November 2012).  This guide provides concrete information on writing documents that are easy to understand.

Access to Justice on a smartphone (May 2012). According to this article from the Center for Access to Justice & Technology at  Chicago-Kent College of Law:  "A redesigned A2J Author® will allow pro se litigants greater access to A2J Guided Interviews® by allowing the application to be used on any Web browser—including the browser on a cell phone. Now, anybody with access to a computer or a smartphone will be able to create a fileable legal document by answering a series of simple questions about their legal issue."

Texas Access to Justice Commission, Report to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee, Court’s Uniform Forms Task Force (April 6, 2012). Commission staff has conducted extensive research on the availability of standardized forms in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This information is a compilation of interviews with representatives from 22 states who were involved in the promulgation of their state’s forms.  The following table summarizes the information Statewide Uniform Forms - All 50 states + D.C.  

Document Assembly Programs Best Practices Guide . New York State Courts. (April 2011).

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has created a video for the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form Support Modification Petition Program (http://nycourthelp.gov/diy/supportmodification.html). This video explains how unrepresented litigants in New York State can easily use the free DIY Form program to make the Family Court papers they need to change their support order.

An on-line interactive software and instructional video is now available for custodial and non-custodial parents wanting to modify their child support orders through the South Carolina Family Court. http://www.modifychildsupportsc.com/

Greacen,  John M. Resources to Assist Self-Represented Litigants A Fifty-State Review of the “State of the Art” Greacen Associates, LLC (2010).

Bladow, Katherine and Claudia Johnson. Online Document Assembly. (2008). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2008.

Deploying Automated Forms for Access . Court Solutions Conference (2008).

Developing and Deploying Plain Language Forms and Instructions . Court Solutions Conference. (2008).

Alteneder, Katherine. (Summer 2007). "Literacy and the Courts." Alaska Justice Forum 24(2): 1, 5-8. This article discusses literacy in relation to self-representation in Alaska courts, particularly in domestic relationship cases, which have a high proportion of self-represented litigants.

The Case for Court-Based Forms and Instructions Programs: Cost-Effective Enhancements to Access to Justice and Court Efficiency (2006).

LawHelpInteractive (LHI)   LHI creates legal forms and documents. People are asked a series of questions, and then their answers are used to tailor their documents. The site is used by legal aid advocates, pro bono lawyers, and people representing themselves.

WriteClearly.org This website provides assistance and sample language for plain language legal forms and information.

State Related Resources

Nearly every state has some type of court form online. Online state Court Forms. Some of these forms are combined with instructions, information, or document assembly software that make them more useful to the self-represented litigant. Nearly 40 states have some kind of self-help website that complements the online forms. Self-Help/Information Resources and Centers Forms may be arranged in packets so that the litigant can select all the necessary forms or the document assembly software may guide the litigant through the process with the appropriate forms being filled out as a group.  Some examples include: 

Alaska Forms and Information About Child Support http://www.courts.alaska.gov/support.htm

Arizona Self Service Forms http://azcourts.gov/selfservicecenter/SelfServiceForms.aspx

California http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm

Connecticut Fillable Webforms http://www.jud.ct.gov/webforms/

Florida Family Forms http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/index.shtml#petsup

Hawaii Divorce Forms http://www.courts.state.hi.us/self-help/divorce/forms/oahu.html

Idaho Interactive Forms http://www.idaholegalaid.org/SelfHelp

Indiana Supreme Court Self-Service Legal Center http://www.in.gov/judiciary/selfservice/2333.htm  

South Carolina Self-Represented Child Support Modification Packets http://www.sccourts.org/forms/indexSRLChildSupport.cfm

Tennessee Supreme Court Approved Forms http://justiceforalltn.com/i-need-help/forms