Court documents aren't always clear, according to President Judge Stephen Linebaugh.
They can become even more daunting to self-represented litigants who try to navigate the York County court system.
Many of those who can't afford attorneys, or choose not to be represented, often show up to hearings unaware of what they need to prove, he said.
To solve that problem, part of the York County Judicial Center is being renovated to add the new Self-Represented Litigant Center.
York County Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved a $7,220.25 bid award to Real Services, a York-based firm that will work on the renovations.
Work will be performed in the front left corner of the Judicial Center-an underutilized area that was previously designated as a press room, Linebaugh said.
Because only one reporter uses that space, another area will be made available for the press, he said.
The Self-Represented Litigant Center is expected to open during the week of Oct. 20, when the Pennsylvania Bar Association celebrates Pennsylvania Pro Bono Week, Linebaugh said.
At the center, self-represented litigants will learn what specific issues they need to address in court, any fees they may need to pay and gain a better understanding of the legal process.
"What they need will be all laid out for them," he said.
Linebaugh couldn't confirm how many self-represented litigants appear in the local court each year, but he said 25 to 30 percent of those litigants are there for custody hearings.
The new center will create more efficient proceedings, better prepare the litigants and shorten their time in court, he said.
York County will become the first jurisdiction in Pennsylvania to offer interactive software to self-represented litigants, walking them through a virtual series of questions, helping them file court documents electronically and collecting fees, Linebaugh said.
That $20,000 software is being paid for by the York County Bar Foundation and the National Center for State Courts.
The Self-Represented Litigant Center will also include an interpreter's office, and an information center for both the Judicial Center and county, he said.
"It's a great utilization of space. It's the right concept at the right time," said President Commissioner Steve Chronister.
Linebaugh said it's a tremendous advantage for the local judicial system, claiming it will also save attorneys time in court because the process will be a little more streamlined.
Also included in the work for the new center will be the relocation of the county's Protection from Abuse Office. The office, which is currently near the county sheriff's department will move into a larger area near the new Self-Represented Litigant Center.
Furniture and furnishings in county storage offices will be used for the new offices, keeping a small price tag on the renovations.
"We're doing this at a very low cost to the people of York," Linebaugh said. "This is a very inexpensive project with great benefits."