If you are involved in a court action other than a small claims case, you have the right to an attorney. It can be very difficult to handle a case on your own because there are many rules to follow, laws to know that form the basis of the case, and certain actions that must be taken. A person with very little or no legal training may not know about these things or how to find out about them. You may need the assistance of an attorney. Legal advice can be very important in preventing serious problems with the processing of your case. If you decide to hire an attorney, there are several places to look for one.
Finding an Attorney
A list of attorneys who practice law can be obtained from the bar association in your local area or you can check the local telephone book for a Lawyer Referral Service number or a complete list of lawyers in the yellow pages under Attorneys.
Some employers provide a legal plan as part of their employee benefits. Check with your employer to see if this benefit is available.
There may also be legal resource and assistance centers located in your own community, especially in cities with a local law college. Two known centers are the Legal Assistance Center in Grand Rapids, and the Washtenaw County/ Eastern Michigan University Legal Resource Center located at 110 North Fourth, Suite 100, Ann Arbor.
You may be entitled to a court-appointed attorney at no cost to you either because of the type of case you are involved in or because you are indigent (unable to afford an attorney and the court finds that you are indigent after reviewing information about your income, property, expenses, and other financial information).
If you cannot afford an attorney and are entitled to a court-appointed attorney if you are indigent, the court will give you a form to complete that gives the court information about your financial situation. Sometimes the court will require repayment of some or all of the costs of a court-appointed attorney.
Situations where the court will appoint an attorney
- An indigent defendant in a criminal case if the offense charged requires on conviction a minimum term in jail or the court determines that it might sentence the defendant to jail.
- An indigent respondent in a civil contempt proceeding for child support enforcement matters if the court is considering jail as a penalty for nonpayment.
- An indigent respondent in a criminal contempt proceeding concerning a personal protection order.
- An indigent juvenile in a delinquency proceeding, or if the juvenile isn't indigent, the court may appoint an attorney for a juvenile in certain other situations.
- All cases involving a mentally ill person.
- A person asserted to meet the criteria for judicial admission.
- A guardianship proceeding for a developmentally disabled person.
- An indigent respondent in a child protective proceeding.
- A lawyer-guardian ad litem for all children subject to a protective services petition.
- An indigent person who is the subject of a petition for testing or commitment for infectious disease.
- A legally incapacitated person who does not already have an attorney in a proceeding to modify a guardianship.
Situations where the court may appoint an attorney
- An attorney for an indigent noncustodial parent contesting termination of parental rights in a step-parent adoption.
- An attorney for a minor who has filed a petition for emancipation.
- An attorney for the parents or guardian of a minor that has filed a petition for emancipation if the parents or guardian are indigent and oppose the petition.
- An attorney for a child in a child custody dispute.
- An attorney for a minor in a guardianship, conservatorship, or protective case.