HG Family Law Clinic offers free advice

September 24, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

The Washington County Circuit Court Family Law Clinic gives residents the chance to seek free legal help from a Hagerstown attorney once a week.

Michael Allen Wilson, a Hagerstown attorney, is at Circuit Court, at 95 W. Washington St., on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to help people with family law matters, at no cost.

Those interested may ask for Wilson at the courthouse.

Wilson said the aid is provided to people based on their income and family size.

"Very, very seldom do I turn someone away because they don't fit the means test," he said.

He does have to turn people away if he determines it would be a conflict of interest for him to represent them.

Wilson said he does not go to court with those he helps, but helps them with paperwork needed to get them there.


He said there is a great need for the services.

"I think it assists the court in moving its docket along," he said. "... There are times when one party has counsel and the other person, who was not the breadwinner, has very little opportunity or access to counter any claims that are made."

He helps people fill out forms for divorce, custody and child support, for example. He also helps people gather evidence and determine which evidence is important.

Wilson, who has been performing the service for about six years, said attorneys in Washington County typically charge $150 to $250 an hour for such services.

Patti Witmer, Circuit Court family services coordinator, said that Wilson and his substitutes helped 465 people between June 30, 2005, and June 30, 2006.

"He helps a lot of people," Witmer said. "He does a good job."

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