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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.

Filing Pleadings

What is a “Pleading”?

The court record in any case consists of documents that are filed in the Court Clerk’s Office. Filed documents are usually called  “pleadings”. Pleadings tell the court what the dispute is about, and what the parties want the court to do about it.

What does a pleading look like?

Pleadings all have the same format. At the top of the first page is the “caption”. The caption has a lot of information. It identifies the state, the county the case was filed in, the court, and the parties. It includes the case number. The caption is always the same for every pleading that is filed in the case, no matter who files it.

In a civil (CV) case, the parties are called the “Plaintiff” and the “Defendant”.

In a domestic (DM) case, the parties are called the “Petitioner” and the “Respondent”.

The person who files the first pleading in the case is called the “Plaintiff” or “Petitioner”. The other party is called the “Defendant” or “Respondent”. These designations never change throughout the case, no matter who files what pleading after that. Neither party has an advantage by being the Petitioner or Plaintiff.

The case number has a lot of information, too. In the example below, the case number tells you the case is a district court case (D), filed in Santa Fe County (0101), in a domestic matter (DM), in the year 2010, and was the 98765 case filed that year.

This is what a caption for a Notice of Hearing in a divorce case filed in Santa Fe County looks like:


CASE NO.  D-0101-DM-2010-98765





How do you file a pleading?

You take your pleading to the Court Clerk’s Office. Bring enough copies for yourself and all the other parties. Ask to have the pleading filed, and the copies endorsed (stamped). The clerk will file the original and put it in the court file. They will stamp the copies and return them to you.

There is no fee to file pleadings, except the Petition or Complaint that opens a case.

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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