Legal aid available to low-income residents through website

Low-income Mississippians who have legal questions may find assistance from the free legal information website ms.freelegalanswers.org.

Volunteer attorneys field questions through the website and provide answers on matters such as divorce, child support, adoption, name change, domestic violence, bankruptcy, consumer issues, education, employment, housing, workers’ compensation, wills and estate planning, said Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project Executive Director and General Counsel Gayla Carpenter-Sanders, state administrator for Mississippi Free Legal Answers.  The site will not answer criminal law questions.

Ms.freelegalanswers.org is intended to give brief, basic legal advice. The service is intended to help people determine whether they have a legal issue and give them advice on how to proceed.  Volunteer attorneys will not write letters, make phone calls or file documents for the users and will not represent them in court.

Volunteer attorneys do not see or speak directly to the people seeking assistance via ms.freelegalanswers.org. Communications are anonymous through the website. This site is designed to ensure client privacy.

The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project launched the website on Aug. 22, 2016, to provide free civil legal assistance to people who cannot afford to pay for an attorney.

The website works like this: People who qualify for assistance will sign up for an account, then post a question privately to the website. A volunteer attorney will anonymously answer the question through the website. Getting an answer may take a few days. The site is not designed for immediate response or legal emergencies.  The user will receive an  e-mail when the question receives a response. The attorney may ask for more information. The user may ask follow-up questions through the website.

People seeking assistance are screened by income. Qualifications include

• annual household income below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines —  for example,  an individual income of less than $24,980, income  of $33,820 for two-person household and  $51,500 for a family of four.

• having less than $5,000 in assets;

• at least 18 years old;

• not  incarcerated.

Lawyers who are willing to volunteer may answer questions via the website at any time.

The website is at this link: https://ms.freelegalanswers.org/.