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First Judicial District Court

Tribunal del Primer Distrito Judicial

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The information contained here is offered to help you represent yourself in the District Court if you do not have a lawyer.

The information offered here is NOT legal advice and may not apply to every situation. It is STRONGLY recommended that you consult with a lawyer before making decisions or taking actions in your case. Most of the information contained in this page pertains to family law cases, for example, divorce, parentage (paternity), and child support.

Court staff CANNOT give legal advice. “Legal advice” is explaining the law to you, explaining how the law may apply to your case, telling you what form you need to file, or telling you what to do in your case. “Legal advice” also includes telling you what to put in the blanks of pleading forms. Court staff 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. Court staff cannot tell you what you should do in a given situation. Asking, “what would you do if you were me” is asking for legal advice!

Please do not ask the court staff for legal advice.

If you are the Petitioner, Plaintiff, Respondent, or Defendant in a court case, and you do not have a lawyer to advise and represent you, you are a “Self-Represented Litigant” (“SRL”). “Litigant” means a party to a lawsuit.

You may also be referred to as a “Pro Se Litigant”. “Pro Se” means appearing for yourself.

If you are representing yourself, you are both your own lawyer and your own client.

You will be expected to be familiar with, and follow, the statutes (laws) that apply to your case as well as the Rules of Civil Procedure, including the Local Rules, and Rules of Evidence. There are no special rules for self-represented people! The same rules that apply to lawyers apply to you. If you do not follow the law and the rules you may permanently lose important rights.

The information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and does not substitute for seeking independent legal advice regarding the handling of a lawsuit or related legal matters.


Opening or Reopening Your Case

Opening

  1. A case is opened by filing a Petition or Complaint. The Petition or Complaint tells the Court what the case is about.It must be signed by the Petitioner or Plaintiff, and that signature must be notarized.
    1. There is a filing fee.  The filing fee must be paid in cash, or a cashier’s check or money order made out to the First Judicial District Court.  Personal checks, debit cards, and credit cards are not accepted for filing fees. Click here for a list of the filing fees for different kinds of cases.

      If you cannot afford to pay a filing fee you may request free process or a reduced fee by filing an Application for Free Process. Remember that the information you provide on the Application for Free Process is under oath, subject to perjury.  Also, if your Application for Free Process is granted, and 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. Applications for Free Process are available at the Self Help Center, on the Court's website, and at the Court Clerk's Office.

    2. When you file your case, you must have the original Petition and enough copies for each person who is a party. A “party” is a person whose name is on the caption (the top part) of the pleading. If you do not have enough copies, the Court Clerk will make them for you at a cost of $.35 per page.  Click here for more information about pleadings.
    3. 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. 
    4. 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. The Self Help Center does not have an all-purpose Complaint form for civil (CV) cases.

      The New Mexico Supreme Court has adopted forms to be used in divorce and parentage cases.

      The Self Help Center has packets of the forms necessary for divorces and parentage (paternity) cases. These packets range from $5 to $20 if you purchase them at the Self Help Center, or you can download them for free by going to Forms. The Forms section also provides instructions for downloading divorce forms from the nmcourts.gov site.

      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. You also need to fill out and file a “Summons”. This is the document that tells the other side that they have been sued in court and they must respond to the Petition or Complaint. You can download a Summons form here, or get one from the Self Help Center.
  3. After you file your Petition or Complaint, you must personally "Serve" the opposing party with a copy of the Petition or Complaint and the Summons to let them know that a lawsuit has been filed against them. Study Rule of Civil Procedure 1-004 to find out how to properly serve the other party.  

Your suit will not proceed – nothing will happen in it – until the Respondent/Defendant has been served. If service is not proper, your case will be dismissed and closed.

Re-Opening

  1. If you are re-opening a case that has been closed for more than 45 days, you must file a Summons and Petition or Motion to Re-open, and you must have these pleadings personally served on the other party. There is no filing fee to reopen a case that has been closed for less than 45 days.
  2. If the case has been closed more than 90 days, you file a Summons and Petition or Motion to Re-open. You will also have to pay a filing fee.

The information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and does not substitute for seeking independent legal advice regarding the handling of a lawsuit or related legal matters.

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