• Kansas courts now accept protection order petitions online

    Before the pandemic, we were approached by Kansas Judicial Branch to study the possibility to develop self-guided interviews for self-represented litigants seeking protection from abuse and protection from sexual assault, harassment, and human trafficking. Applicants seeking a protection order were required to visit the court to obtain and file the necessary forms. However, unlike other states, Kansas court clerks are not allowed to provide assistance with the completion of any forms or advising how a particular definition of a word applies to a specific situation. Applicants often have difficulties with legal jargon, filing the right forms, or omitting crucial information that could impact their cases. When the courts were ordered to close to the public due to the pandemic, the entire in-person process stalled and it became critical to find an alternative solution.

    With the help of a grant approved by the State Finance Council from federal coronavirus relief funds, we embarked on a project to create a scalable, accessible, and mobile-friendly web portal where a person seeking a protection order is guided through an online interview, and the answers used to populate forms a judge will review before granting an order.

    In 70 days, we created Kansas Protection Order Portal ( Applicants use a short interview to determine their eligibility for a protection order and if so, what forms they need to use. If they are not eligible for a protection order, we redirect them to a directory of resources organized by county and expertise. Applicants ready to start a petition could do so from the same portal. By answering dynamic and easy-to-understand questions, applicants will generate all the necessary forms and automatically file them with the court.

    The portal was launched in December for a limited number of counties in the state of Kansas. It will become available to all 115 counties in early January 2021.

    From the preliminary feedback we have received, both applicants and clerks appreciate the new process. But most importantly, people who need a protection order will no longer have to visit the courthouse in person to file the required forms. This is a significant improvement over the in-person process which places vulnerable individuals at tremendous risks.


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