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					SRL Quick Clicks

Where to Get Help
Forms
Representing Yourself in Court
Opening or Re-opening Your Case
How a Lawsuit Proceeds
If You Can’t Attend a Scheduled Hearing
Filing Pleadings
What Does “Service” Mean?
Violations of Court Orders or filed agreements in
    Divorce or Parentage Cases
Modification of Orders or Agreements during or
    after a divorce
Court-Appointed Attorneys

WHERE TO GET HELP

Court Programs to Help Self-Represented
Litigants (SRLs)

The First Judicial District Court offers some help to
people who do not have lawyers.

SELF HELP CENTER

The Court’s Self Help Center is located on the
ground floor of the Courthouse, next to the Court
Clerk’s Office. The Center’s phone number is
505.476.0177. Their email address is
sfedselfsefv@nmcourts.gov . The Center is staffed
from 8–12 and 12:30-4:30 Monday – Friday
(excluding holidays) by a Court employee who can
provide forms and procedural information. She
CANNOT fill out the forms for you or tell you what
to put in the blanks, but she can explain the forms
to you so you understand what information is
required.

You can obtain forms and information there. Please
be aware that they may not have forms for every
purpose. There is also space to sit down and fill
out the forms.

The Center’s staff CANNOT give you legal advice.
They CANNOT fill out the forms for you or tell you
how to fill out the forms. They can explain what
information the forms are asking for, but you must
fill in the forms in your own words. The Center’s
staff cannot tell you what you should do in a given
situation. PLEASE DO NOT ASK COURT STAFF
FOR LEGAL ADVICE.

The Self Help Center also has two public access
computers that have software to produce the Child
Support Worksheets that must be attached to all
parentage (paternity) or custody cases and any
divorce case that involves children under the age of
18. The computers may ONLY be used for the
Child Support Worksheets. They do not have any
other software, and do not have Internet access.


FREE FAMILY LAW CLINICS FOR SRLs
The free Family Law Clinic for Self-Represented
Litigants is offered once a month by the First
Judicial District Court, the Paralegal Studies
Program at the Santa Fe Community College, and
private attorneys who volunteer their time to try to
help people who can’t afford a lawyer. The Clinics
are offered on the fourth Saturday of each month at
9:00 a.m. at the Santa Fe Community College.

You can get general information about divorce and
parentage cases and help filling out the forms
packets at the Clinics. Bring your forms with you
to the Clinic. DO NOT bring children with you to
the Clinic – there’s nowhere for them to play safely
by themselves, and you can’t leave them
unattended.

A free half hour consultation with an attorney is
also available by voucher only. You can obtain a
voucher by attending a Clinic and asking for a
voucher afterward. When you receive the voucher,
you call the attorney’s office to make an
appointment. The attorney you see can give you
advice about your particular situation.

MEDIATION FOR DEVELOPING
PARENTING PLANS
If you have a parentage case, or you are divorcing
and you have children under the age of 18, you will
have to file a Parenting Plan that describes how you
and the children’s other parent will take care of
them. If you can’t come up with a Parenting Plan
on your own, mediation may be the best way to
help the two of you work through your differences.
A mediator is a neutral third person who has
training in mediation and communication
techniques. The mediator’s job is to help you try to
work out a solution that you both can live with.

 Where can you find a mediator? There are several
places.

         o   Family Court Services offers
              mediation with court employees who
              are master’s level counselors with
              extensive mediation training and
              experience. Mediation through Family
              Court Services is on a sliding fee scale.
         o   Private mediators also offer mediation.
              They have varying types of training
              and experience. They are usually not
              lawyers. Their fees vary from person
              to person, and may depend on the
              type of case.
         o   Some attorneys offer mediation. They
              also have varying types of training and
              experience. They cannot represent or
              give either person legal advice, but
              they can give legal information. Their
              fees vary from person to person, and
              may depend on the type of case.
SETTLEMENT FACILITATION FOR
DEVELOPING
MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS
(PROPERTY DIVISION ISSUES)

The Court has an Alternative Dispute Resolution
(“ADR”) Program that offers attorneys who have
mediation training to help people work out
solutions they can both live with. The ADR
Program is available in CV, DM, and PB cases.

Settlement facilitators are neutral third parties who
DO NOT represent or advise either party. However,
settlement facilitators, because of their legal
training, can help each party evaluate the strengths
and weaknesses of their own and the other side’s
case.

Mediators and settlement facilitators are not judges
– they do not make decisions for the parties or tell
them what to do.


Other Places to Get Help

      look for applicable statutes, rules, and forms
       at the Supreme Court Law Library:
       www.supremecourtlawlibrary.org, located at
       237 Don Gaspar Street, Santa Fe, New
       Mexico, 87501, (505) 827-4850.
      the public libraries have some information
       as well as public access computers;
      Legal FACS website: legalfacs.org
      Law Access New Mexico Help-Line: 1-800-
       340-9771 (income-qualified)
      NM Legal Aid: 1-800-373-9881 or 982-9886
       in Santa Fe (income-qualified)


The New Mexico Child Support Enforcement
Division can help you with paternity cases and
with child support cases. Call them at (800) 288-
7207, or find them on-line at
www.hsd.state.nm.us/csed/ .

Some attorneys offer limited advice or
representation. For instance, you could hire an
attorney just for advice about a particular part of
your case, or you could hire one to review the
documents you created by using the court’s forms.
Attorneys refer to this as “unbundled services”:
instead of buying the whole package you buy just
the part you most need help with and can afford.

FORMS
       You can get forms from a number of sources
– on-line, books, the Supreme Court law library.
You are not required to use forms from any
particular source, but you are required to use the
correct form for the purpose. Many forms are
available free from the Court’s Self Help Center. A
number of forms packets for family law cases,
including divorce, custody and child support, and
parentage are available for purchase from the
Court’s Self Help Center for $10.00 per packet, or
you can download and print them yourself. The
Court’s Self Help Center has many forms, but they
may not have a form for everything you may need.

Links here for packets, forms


REPRESENTING YOURSELF IN
COURT

In General
1. When you do not have an attorney, you become
your own attorney. You must follow the same
rules that a lawyer must follow. If you fail to follow
the rules, you may permanently lose important
rights.

2. Every case is handled according to the statutes
(laws) and the rules. Be sure you know what laws
apply in your case.

You must follow the Rules of Civil Procedure and
the Local Rules whenever you appear in court for
any reason and whenever you file anything. They
tell you what information must be included in your
pleadings. They tell you how to file, how long the
other side has to respond, how long you have to
respond, etc.

The Rules of Evidence govern all the information
that is offered in your case. They tell you what
information may or must be presented to the judge
or hearing officer, and how to present it. The judge
can only hear information that is allowed by the
Rules of Evidence.

Be sure to study the Rules before you do anything.

You may find the rules and statutes at the
Supreme Court Law Library,
www.supremecourtlawlibrary.org.

The documents that are filed in a lawsuit are called
“pleadings”.

3. Do not try to talk to the judge or hearing
officer in private! He or she cannot talk to one
party without the other party being present. All
your interactions with the judge or hearing officer
will be in the formal setting of a courtroom, in
“hearings”, which are governed by the Rules of
Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence.

4. Provide a current and reliable mailing
address and telephone number to the court,
hearing office and the opposing party. Once you
appear in a case you may be notified of hearings or
motions by mail only. If you move and you miss a
hearing because your mail fails to reach you, you
may permanently lose important rights. If you
move after the first time you file a pleading,
you should file a change of address in the
court file. The judge or hearing officer will only
mail notices to the address you provide in the court
file.

If you have a protective order in place that keeps
your contact information confidential, you must
file a Motion for Order to Seal so that alternative
arrangements can be made for notice. You can get
a Motion for Order to Seal at the Court’s Self Help
Center or download and print it from this site.

5. Appear at all scheduled hearings. Arrive at
least fifteen (15) minutes before the scheduled time
and make sure the administrative assistant, bailiff,
or court monitor for the Judge or Hearing Officer
knows that you are present.

If you have requested the Court to do something
and you do not appear, your request will be
dismissed. If the other party is asking for
something and you do not appear, they will
normally get whatever they are asking for.

If you do not appear at a scheduled hearing,
you may permanently lose your opportunity to
be heard on the issue.

6. Be Prepared! Bring all your documents with
you whenever you have a hearing. You must
provide the other side with copies of everything you
want to show the judge – before you get into court.
If you have documents you want to show the judge,
bring copies for the other side.

7. If you, or any witnesses you may need to testify,
need an interpreter to help understand the
hearing, you should inform the administrative
assistant for the judge or hearing officer assigned
to your case at least twenty-four hours before the
hearing. An interpreter will be provided at no cost
for anyone who needs help understanding English.
If you have any other special needs to assist you in
participating in your hearing, please inform the
administrative assistant as soon as possible after
receiving notice of hearing. Every effort will be
made to ensure that your access to all services of
the court will not be limited.

8. The Court Clerks can give you information from
the Court file including your case number, who the
assigned judge is, and what pleadings have been
filed. Clerks may not give you legal advice about
how to proceed in your lawsuit. You can see what
is in your case file by coming to the courthouse and
asking at the Clerks Office to review the court file.
You can get copies from the file for a charge of 35
cents a page. You MAY NOT remove anything from
the court file.

9. Some documents must be notarized. Notaries
are available in the Self Help Center, in the Clerk’s
Office, and the offices of the judges and hearing
officers. You must have a picture identification and
you must sign in front of the notary. If you have a
document that must be notarized, DO NOT sign it
until you are physically in front of the notary. Please
do not ask notaries to sign for someone who is not
present. Remember that having your signature
notarized means you swear that the contents of the
paper you've signed are true, under penalty of
perjury.

Courtroom Behavior
1.    When you come to court, dress with
dignity. Do not wear shorts, flip-flops, halter tops,
tank tops, baggy jeans, T-shirts with rude
messages, or other distracting clothing. Make sure
any metal on your clothing (e.g., belts,
shirts/jackets with metal buttons) can be removed,
or you won’t make it through security. Be clean.
2.    Don’t be on time – be early, at least 15
minutes. You need to allow time to go through
security, find your courtroom and check in.
Remember to allow time to find parking and get to
the courthouse. Bring enough change for the
parking meter – you can’t get change in the
courthouse, and once your hearing starts you can’t
leave until it’s over.

3.    Don’t chew gum or eat or drink in the
courtroom.

4.    Turn your cell phone off, not just on
“vibrate”.

5.    At your hearing or trial, you address the
judge as “Your Honor”. If your hearing is before a
hearing officer, you address her as “Madame
Hearing Officer” unless she tells you to call her
something else.

6.     Stand up when you address the court.
Sitting down while you’re talking to the judge only
happens on TV.

7.     DO NOT BRING CHILDREN TO COURT.
Unless a child has been subpoenaed to testify, find
a babysitter. Children are not allowed in the
courtrooms or hearing rooms. No day care is
provided by courthouse staff. Children may not be
left unattended.

OPENING or REOPENING YOUR
CASE
You must follow the Rules of Civil Procedure and
the Local Rules whenever you file anything. They
tell you what information must be included in your
pleadings. They tell you how to file, how long the
other side has to respond, how long you have to
respond, etc. Be sure to look at the Rules before
you do anything. You can find them at
www.supremecourtlawlibrary.org.

Many forms are available from the Self Help Center,
including packets of forms for divorces and
parentage (paternity) cases and kinship
guardianship cases. The Self Help Center DOES
NOT have every kind of form you might need for
every purpose.

There is no general Complaint form to open a civil
case.

To Open or Re-Open a Case:

1. You open a case by filing a Petition or
Complaint. All documents in the case are filed in
the Court Clerk's Office. Any filed document is
called a “pleading”. When you file your case, you
must have the original Petition and enough copies
for each person who is a party and the judge or
hearing officer. If you do not have enough copies,
the Court Clerk will make them for you at a cost of
$.35 per page.

The original pleading will be kept by the Clerk for
the Court file. The copies will be stamped with the
date the pleading was filed. These are called
“endorsed” copies.

Many forms are available at the Self Help Center.
Many of these forms are also available to download
from this web site. Click here to link to the Forms
page. Please remember that the Self Help Center
does not carry a form for every purpose.

You may need to do further research – the Supreme
Court Law Library is a good place – to figure out
what information to put in your pleading.

2. In order to open a new case (or reopen a case
that has been closed for more than ninety days)
you must pay a filing fee. Click here for a list of
filing fees. Personal checks are not accepted. You
must have cash, or a cashier’s check or money
order made out to the First Judicial District
Court.

If you cannot afford to pay a filing fee you may
request free process or a reduced fee on the
Application for Free Process. Remember that the
information you provide on the Application for Free
Process is under oath, subject to perjury. Also, if
evidence that is introduced later at a hearing differs
from the information on your Application for Free
Process, you may be ordered to pay the fee.

3. After you file your Petition or Complaint, you
must "Serve" the opposing party. Study Rule of
Civil Procedure 1-004
(www.supremecourtlawlibbrary.org) to find out how
to properly serve the other party. If service is not
proper, your case will be dismissed.

If you are reopening a case that has been closed
for more than 45 days, you must file a Summons
and Petition or Motion, and you must have these
pleadings personally served by the Sheriff, or a
person who is not a party and who is over the age
of eighteen (18) years. If the case has been closed
more than 90 days, you will also have to pay a
filing fee.

HOW A LAWSUIT PROCEEDS
After a Petition or Complaint is served on the other
party, they have 30 days to file an Answer.
Nothing will happen in your case until this time
has passed! Judges will almost never act without
giving both sides an opportunity to present their
side.

After the case has been opened, whenever you want
to ask the Court to do something, you must put
your requests in the form of a written Motion or
Request, file it, and provide copies to the other
side.

A copy of everything you file must be provided to
the other party. All motions on ongoing cases and
correspondence must be mailed to the other party
or their lawyer. You must note on your pleading or
correspondence when you mailed it to the other
party. This is called a “Certificate of Service”.

The other side always has a chance to respond to a
Motion or Request made by one side. Check the
Rules of Civil Procedure to find out how long you
have to respond to a Motion filed by the other side,
or how long they have to respond to a Motion you
file.

If you ask the Court to do something (by filing a
Motion) and the other side objects (by filing a
written Reply to the Motion), the Court may decide
the issue based on the written pleadings (the
Motion and the Reply), or the Court may set a
hearing so that both of you may present your side.
If you want to talk to the judge to present your side
and not just rely on the written Motion, you must
file a Request for Hearing. Click here for a Request
for Hearing form. If the Court decides to have a
hearing, you will receive a Notice of Hearing that
sets the date and time that you MUST appear.

Do not try to talk to the judge or hearing
officer in private! He or she cannot talk to one
party without the other party being present. All
your interactions with the judge or hearing officer
will be in the formal setting of a courtroom, in
“hearings”, which are governed by the Rules of
Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence.

If you have received a notice of hearing you must
be prepared to present all your evidence on the day
of the hearing. Bring copies of your written
evidence (exhibits) and provide them to the other
party before the hearing. If you need a witness to
help you prove your side, you may request the
Clerk's Office to issue a subpoena for that witness.
The Sheriff's office may serve subpoenas for you.

Rule of Civil Procedure 1-045 sets out the rules
regarding subpoenas and witness fees. Expert
witnesses such as doctors, psychologists or
accountants may require advance payment of
fees. You should consult with any experts you
wish to testify for you before you arrange for a
subpoena.

IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND A
SCHEDULED HEARING
If an emergency arises which requires you to
vacate (cancel) or continue (postpone) a hearing,
follow these steps:


1. You must contact the other party, unless you
have an Order Prohibiting Domestic Violence, and
tell them that you need to cancel or postpone the
hearing and why. Find out if they will agree to
cancel or postpone the hearing.


2. If the other party agrees, you must call the
judge or the hearing officer's administrative
assistant and tell them you are going to file a
request for vacation or a continuance. Then fill out
a Motion for Vacation or Continuance, being
sure to state that the other party does not object to
a continuance, and file it. You can get a Motion
for Vacation or Continuance from the Court’s Self
Help Center.


3. If the other party does not agree, you must call
the judge or the hearing officer's administrative
assistant and tell them you are going to file a
request for vacation or a continuance, and the other
party does not agree. Then fill out a Motion for
Vacation or Continuance, stating that the other
party does object to a continuance, and file it.

4. The judge or hearing officer may grant the
continuance, or he or she may set a hearing in
person or by telephone to hear the other party's
objections before ruling on your request to continue
the hearing.


5. A hearing is never canceled or postponed until
the judge or hearing officer cancels or postpones it.
Just because you or the other side has filed a
motion to vacate or continue the hearing doesn’t
mean it has been granted. Make sure you have
heard from the judge's administrative assistant that
you do not need to appear before you fail to appear.

FILING PLEADINGS



WHAT DOES “SERVICE” MEAN?



VIOLATIONS OF COURT ORDERS OR
FILED AGREEMENTS IN DIVORCE
OR PARENTAGE CASES
1.     Motion for Order to Show Cause – for alleged
            violations of anything having to do with
            money, e.g., child support, interim
            income allocation

2.     Motion to Enforce – for all other alleged
            violations of Orders, e.g., failure to
            transfer title to car or other property


3.    Include a Request for Hearing with the
Motion

MODIFICATION OF ORDERS OR
AGREEMENTS DURING OR AFTER A
DIVORCE
                   Corrections
                   Supplemental pleadings
                   Finality of certain categories
                    (property, no alimony, etc)
                   “Evolution” of child custody and
                    child support orders - material or
                    significant change of
                    circumstances, etc.

File a Motion to correct, supplement, modify, etc.
Include a Request for Hearing with the Motion.




COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEYS
The court may appoint an attorney to represent
anyone who is at risk of being jailed for violation of
a law or court order. This is the ONLY time the
court will appoint a lawyer to represent someone.

If you are accused of violating a civil law or a court
order, you will have received an Order to Show
Cause. DO NOT IGNORE THIS ORDER! This
Order tells you to come to court and tell the judge
why you should NOT be put in jail for violating the
law or an order. If you do not appear at your Show
Cause hearing, the judge may issue a Bench
Warrant for your arrest.

If an Order to Show Cause has been issued against
you, you may obtain a packet for Application for
Appointment of Attorney from the Self Help Center.
The packet includes a Motion for Appointment of
Attorney, an Affidavit of Indigency, and an Order
for Appointment of Attorney. Fill in the Motion
and Affidavit and file them in the Clerk’s Office.
Then take endorsed copies to the Judge’s assistant.

If your Motion is approved, ….

If you are the person who filed a Motion for an
Order to Show Cause, you are NOT entitled to an
attorney to represent you, because you are not
accused of doing something (or failing to do
something) for which you can be jailed. Instead,
you are the one who is accusing the other person of
violating the law or a court order.

				
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