A new electronic filing system, part of a five-county pilot program, can now be accessed via the website, mifile.courts.michigan.gov.
It is not mandatory to do it from your home computer, but it became mandatory in Ottawa County on Monday to file such cases electronically, according to County Clerk Justin Roebuck.
All divorces, lawsuits and some domestic cases must be electronically filed. Personal protection orders are not currently included in this program.
Attorneys and court staff working in Ottawa County have already had training on using the program. So, if you have an attorney, he or she will be doing the filing for you, Roebuck said. Otherwise, courthouse staff will be available over the next several weeks to help anyone set up an account and to scan and file the papers online. The filing fee of $175, or $260 if children are involved, may also be paid online.
Trained staff and e-filing computers with scanners are available at the Circuit Court office on the third floor of the County Courthouse in Grand Haven. The computers with scanners are also available on the second floor of the courthouse, in the law library and at the Legal Self-Help Center.
Ottawa County public libraries also have trained staff, computers and scanners to work on the program. This help is available at Loutit District Library in Grand Haven, Spring Lake District Library, Herrick Library in Holland and the Howard Miller Library in Zeeland.
The state court, with the ultimate goal of having a uniform electronic filing system statewide, Roebuck said, is using Mi-File.
“The eventual goal is for all cases to be filed this way,” the county clerk said. “This way, we can ultimately save a whole lot of time, money and resources for the courts.”
To use Mi-File, a person sets up a basic account and scans filled-out paperwork into a portal. That portal connects to the portal in the courthouse offices.
“I think it’s a pretty smooth process,” Roebuck said. “It’s not a difficult portal to understand.”
The forms used in the filing process can be obtained from the Legal Self-Help Center, Roebuck said. The forms are not included on the website.
While there will be a learning curb, primarily on the courthouse staff side, Roebuck said that “in the long run, I think this creates a more efficient process for the courts.” He said this gets the court away from a paper filing process.
“Basically, right now, we’re paying almost $30,000 a year for off-site storage of files,” Roebuck said.
In an attempt to decrease that load, a full-time staff person has been transferring the files to a digital format for the past year. That allows the county to destroy some of the paper files, while others go into a historical archive and the law requires yet others to be maintained in paper files, the clerk said. This also makes the files more accessible if they are needed again.
A recent request for commutation by convicted murderer Ron Reddick required the court to find the files from the 1991 case. The court took advantage of that opportunity to digitize those files. Reddick is still awaiting word on whether or not his life sentence will be commuted.
The process has actually been going on since 2006, but a bigger push to digitize the files began last year. Roebuck said they have gotten back as far as 1996.
“There’s still 120 years there,” he said. “It’s a big project. It’s going to take us a long time.
Counties participating in the electronic filing pilot program also include Grand Traverse, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne.