Self Help Legal Resource

Notice - Only accepting emergency marriage license by appointment. Call 269-983-7111 ext. 8233. Eval

Please contact our office ahead of time 

to set up an appointment:

St. Joseph Office - 269-983-7111, ext. 8793

Niles Office - 269-983-7111, ext. 6202 or 6203

The Self-Help Legal Resource Center was opened on April 20, 2009, and is designed to make information and forms more readily available to those who wish to represent themselves in court proceedings. Although legal advice cannot be given, staff and volunteers are pleased to assist patrons with the procedural steps involved in filing court documents.

The Self-Help Legal Resource Center of Berrien County was established in St. Joseph on April 20, 2009, through generous funding from the Michigan State Bar Foundation, Fredrick S. Upton Foundation, Berrien Community Foundation and Benton Harbor Connect Up Partnership Fund. It is currently funded exclusively by Berrien County Court System. The Center established a secondary location in the Niles Courthouse on October 17th, 2012.

St. Joseph Office

Niles Office


The Civil Division handles cases involving Garnishments, General Civil Claims over $25,000, General Civil Claims under $25,000, Small Claims (Claims $6,500 and under), and Landlord/Tenant Cases. 

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The Criminal Expungement Form is also known as an Application to Set Aside Conviction. The Criminal Division also handles Traffic Tickets and general criminal questions.

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The Family Division handles cases involving Friend of the Court, Child Support, Parenting Time, Divorce, Custody, and Probate Court. Personal Protections Orders are filed through the County Clerk's office.

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The Juvenile Division handles Juvenile Adjudication, Neglect & Abuse, and Juvenile Issues.

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Landlord / Tenant cases are handled by the Civil Division.

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The Probate Court handles cases involving Guardianships for Adults, Minors, and Developmentally Disabled Individuals, Conservatorships, Name Changes, Emancipations, and Estates.

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Other Services Provided

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Fee Waiver Packet

If you are receiving public assistance or have a low income, you may be able to have the payment of court fees reduced or waived. The Fee Waiver provides the Judge with your financial information and she/he will review your request. 

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While the assistance given at the Self-Help Legal Resource Center is free of charge, there is a small fee associated with some of the forms and copies.

Copies$0.25 per page
Divorce packet with children$10.00
Divorce packet without children$6.00
Custody packet for unmarried couples$6.00
Single sheet formsNo charge
Small Claims and landlord/tenant forms$0.50
Friend of the Court motionsNo charge
Personal Protection OrderNo charge


We Can

  • Explain and answer questions about how the court works
  • Provide referrals to attorneys or other resources
  • Provide general information about court rules, procedures and practices
  • Provide information about court scheduling
  • Provide court forms and instructions on how to get forms
  • Answer questions about court filing
  • Check court forms and papers for completeness


  • Give legal advice
  • Determine if a case should be brought to court
  • Advise what wording to use on court forms or paper
  • Advise what to say in court
  • Give an opinion about what will happen in court
  • Speak to the judge about a case
  • Change an order signed by a judge

The S-H LRC provides information and assistance to community residents who choose to represent themselves in family court and civil matters providing vital access to justice for our patrons who may be unable or unwilling to retain legal counsel.  Services, other than selected forms and copies are provided at low or no costs.  Our dedicated staff and volunteers are specifically trained to work individually with each patron to determine their specific needs, assist with the completion of court forms, and provide general information about court process and procedures. ….No Legal Advice is given.

Judge Alfred M. Butzbaugh Picture

Retired Chief Judge Alfred Butzbaugh had a vision to recognize that our community needed a place for people to turn to for help with their legal questions.  His vision has become a reality and a success here in Berrien County.