NEW PHILADELPHIA − Divorce and the resulting issues of child custody and support are among the most painful experiences people can have with the legal system.
Free legal forms that can help people be their own advocates are available at the Tuscarawas County Law Library, located in the basement of the Tuscarawas County Office Building, 125 E. High Ave., next to the courthouse.
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“If you think you’re going to be in a divorce or dissolution and you want to know what the law is on your child support … you can go to the law library and they’ll help you find the software to actually calculate your child support,” said Elizabeth W. Stephenson, Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court administrator. “Our law library remains open to the public, and people can get real help there.”
The forms available on the county website and at the law library also include those applicable to landlord-tenant relations and other issues.
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Law librarian Kathy Moreland-Fell said members of the general public and the legal community can use the law library to look up laws in books and handbooks. Often, she said, courts send citizens to the law library to print off the do-it-yourself legal packets that are on the county website.
A lot of people may be able to access resources through cell phones, but don’t have a way to print the forms when they want to file something with the courts, such as a request for a change in child support payments, she said. Staff can help visitors get on the computer at the library, find the right pages and print them.
Stephenson said the do-it-yourself divorce kits sold in stores may be written for California or New York.
“The law in places like that is very different,” said Stephenson, a member of the law library’s governing board since 1993. “You would want a form set that is particular to Ohio.”
Stephenson said the law library subscribes to certain research materials not available through a Google search. The search engine will get you to the Ohio Revised Code, but not to the interpretation of state law by courts, Stephenson said.
The role of the library staff is limited.
Staff cannot give legal advice
“We have to be very careful and we have to tell people we’re not attorneys. We can’t give any kind of legal advice,” said Moreland-Fell. “You’re basically on your own. We can show you which books you’re able to use.”
For attorneys, membership in the law library allows them to use the Westlaw online legal database and other resources.
The Tuscarawas County Law Library has partnered with the Stark County Law Library for the past three years, offering joint memberships that give local lawyers access to the Stark County library’s more extensive physical and online resources in Canton.
The dual memberships offered in-person access to the law library in Canton when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the temporary closure of the Tuscarawas County Office Building.
The library works in conjunction with the Tuscarawas County Bar Association to conduct continuing legal education at Kent State University at Tuscarawas twice a year.
The local law library offers training for people to become notaries, in partnership with Stark County Bar Association and under the authority of Ohio Secretary of State. The three-hour training is offered in an adjoining classroom.
The law library gets funding from courts, fines and penalties, meaning funding varies from year-to-year.The library doesn’t get an appropriation from the county’s general fund, although county commissioners are required by law to provide space for the facility.
“It’s small but it’s a good resource center,” said Moreland-Fell, who will retire at the end of October after 29 years at the law library. She will turn over her duties to a part-time employee who will transition into the full-time position. A Newcomerstown resident, Moreland-Fell worked at a law office before she started working at law library. She is a certified paralegal who attended classes at Walsh University in North Canton.
Stephenson said Moreland-Fell has been a “fantastic” law librarian, pointing to the partnerships she forged that expanded the library’s offerings. She noted that Moreland-Fell brought the library into this century.
When is the law library open?
The law library is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The contact number is 330-365-3224.
Reach Nancy at 330-364-8402 or [email protected] On Twitter: @nmolnarTR.