Legal Document Assistance in Hayward

Every second Monday of the month, the Hayward Branch of the Alameda County Law Library hosts a volunteer session from 3-5 p.m. with a Legal Document Assistant (LDA). This is to aid patrons with their legal paper work, showing them resources they can use to answer their questions and some samples of filled out forms.   This session is led by a member of the California Association of Legal Document Assistants (CALDA), Helen Bellamy.  She has been the LDA volunteering for South County patrons since 2010.  She has a wonderful demeanor with many patrons appreciating her assistance and kindness.Helen Bellamy

Helen came to working in the legal field through her own foray in to family law issues.  After handling a personal child custody situation, she realized she wanted to be able to help others with their legal challenges.  This led her into going to law school and, after trying to pass the bar a few times, deciding being an attorney wasn’t meant to be.   So she made the switch to being a Legal Document Assistant and in this capacity, she feels she’s better able to help people.

In the past, Legal Document Assistants were known as Independent Paralegals until 1994.  That is when the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 was signed into law and the term “legal” was no longer useable with with regard to people who did bankruptcy preparation work.  See the law,  With this change, many Independent Paralegals, who often did bankruptcy paperwork on behalf of clients, had to get a new name.  In 1998, Pete Wilson signed into law, SB1418  which codified the position.   California is the first state to regulate the profession of Legal Document Assistant.


Legal Documents Assistants are legally obligated to register with the county in which they work and are bonded and governed by the California Business & Professions Code Sections 6400-6415 and 6450-6456.   They do their work independent of attorneys, unlike paralegals, who work under the direction of an attorney.  California Legal Document Assistants was established in 1986.

Bellamy prides herself on being able to help people understand the process of doing a legal case and how to find out how to help themselves.  If you would like to learn more about her, she has a webiste:

Block Buddies – ACLL & The Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office

The legal profession has two sides.  Litigation (i.e., courts, lawsuits, alternative dispute resolution) gets the headlines.  Transactional side activities (i. e., contract agreements, real property transactions, wills and estates, etc.) usually remain private between the parties involved except when one of those parties decides to challenge the transaction in court and the disagreement becomes part of a court’s public record.  Though the Alameda County Law Library gets the vast majority of its funding from litigation activities (civil filings), it also provides services relating to the many transactions that are required by our government agencies and the legal system.

Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office

No filing of official documents is done at the law library locations, but the staff can and does assist a patron with researching the proper procedures on how to record documents to protect his or her legal rights.  We also have copies of forms and templates – samples of the proper language and formatting used for each specific form.  Within the library’s various resources, we have numerous forms and templates — more than anyone would ever want to count.  The majority of the requests we receive at the ACLL reference desks are for those forms that need to be filed as part of the official records retained by the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office 1106 Madison St, Oakland, CA 94612

As the Oakland Main Law Library is around the corner from the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, we have steady flow of traffic in patrons seeking deeds and affidavit forms, as well as, other documents that effect the ownership to real property.  These forms need to be filed with the Clerk-Recorder’s Office to have the transaction be included as part of the official chain of title (or ownership) for the property.  The County Clerk-Recorder also provides official services for recording documents including but not limited to: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and certificates, fictitious business names and mechanics liens.  Their office does not supply any paperwork or legal advice.   They send people around the corner to ACLL for those resources.  Many of the forms are also available on Internet sites.  ACLL has its own forms web page but you will need access to a printer.  Just make sure whatever website you use is up-to-date with the requirements of California law.

At the reference desk, we sell deed packets ($2.00) to help people with the proper paperwork to record changes in ownership to California real estate.  The packets include the form itself, as well as, information sheets including locations of notary services in the area for those forms that require signature before a notary.

There are two especially helpful resources at ACLL for County Clerk-Recorder transactions.  The first is the Nolo Press’ Deeds for California Real Estate by Mary Randolph.   This title can help the user with choosing the right kind of deed, drafting (correctly word processing) it, then filing it with a county recorder.  The text is written in plain-English with step-by-step instructions for completing forms.

Information includes how to :

  • add or remove someone’s name from the title of real estate you own
  • transfer real estate into, or out of, a revocable living trust
  • borrow or lend money with real estate as security

You can also access the sections of this books through ACLL’s website using the “Legal Databases” web page and these instructions –2015_nolo_ebsco_access_guide.

The second item is the  title – Recorders’ Document Reference and Indexing Manual: A Training and Reference Manual for State-wide Recording and Indexing Personnel.  It is published by the County Recorders’ Association of California. This unique resource is of value to legal researchers who are trying to trying to establish a public record of his or her interest in property.   The title includes an index to the majority of recordable documents, as well as, a listing of items that will not be recorded by a California county recorder.

Deeds, as well as, a number of other legal documents require that a signature be notarized.  Recent California law has made changes to the language required as part of the notary statement.  People who try to file forms or documents that have been notarized using the old language will have their documents rejected by the Clerk-Recorder’s Office.  But that is a topic for another blog post in the near future.


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FL-980: New Form for Serving a Missing Spouse


The Judicial Council of California has created a simple, fill-in-the-blank form that allows one spouse to proceed with a divorce even if their husband or wife cannot be located. By filing an Application for Order for Publication or Posting (FL-980), the petitioning party requests the court’s permission to serve their spouse by publishing the summons in a newspaper of general circulation or by posting the summons in a location where the respondent is likely to receive actual notice. The petitioning party must disclose all prior attempts made to locate and serve the missing spouse, including visits to the respondent’s last known address and inquiries made to the respondent’s friends, family, and past and current employers.

If the judge determines that the petitioning party has made reasonable efforts to locate the respondent’s whereabouts and that the respondent cannot be served in a conventional manner, he or she will issue an Order for Publication or Posting (FL-982). The Order specifies how the petitioner may effect service on the respondent using one of these alternative methods.

The law library has several titles that provide in-depth information on service of process: