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Self-Help (Pro Se)
The information contained in this page is offered to help you represent yourself in the District Court if you do not have a lawyer, that is you are “pro se”.
This is not legal advice and may not apply to every situation. It is strongly recommended that you have a lawyer to consult with or to represent you. Most of the information contained in this page pertains to domestic cases, e.g. divorce and child support. For additional resources, please refer to the Self-Help Guide page.
- You must follow the same rules that a lawyer must follow. If you fail to follow the rules, you may permanently lose important rights. Courthouse staff are prohibited from giving legal advice. You may find the basic law, rules, and statutes online at NM Supreme Court Law Library of New Mexico statutes.
- Do not attempt to speak privately to the judges or hearing officers. The judges may only speak to you when both sides are present or given a chance to appear at a hearing.
- Put requests in the form of a written petition or motion. See Local Rules and Rules of Civil Procedure for proper form. Many divorce and custody forms are available at the District Court Clerk’s Office. Many of these forms are also available to download from this web site. Click here to link to the Forms Page. This page lists the forms available to the public at no cost as either hard copies that you may pick up or as downloadable forms that you may print.
- In order to file a new case (or reopen a case closed for more than forty-five days), you must pay a fee. Click here for a list of filing fees. Personal checks are not accepted. You must pay with cash or a money order made out to the “Ninth 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 at a hearing differs from your Application for Free Process, you may be ordered to pay the fee.
- You must have the original Petition, Motion or Order and enough copies for each person who is a party and the Court or Hearing Office. If you do not have enough copies, the Clerk will make them for you at a cost of $.35 per page.
- All Motions, Petitions or Complaints are filed in the Clerk’s Office. The original document will be kept by the Clerk for the Court file. Your copies will be stamped with the date the document was filed. This is your endorsed copy. The clerks can give you the 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 you lawsuit.
- “Serve” the opposing party. All contact with the Court must be served on the person who is against you in your case. A Summons, Petition or Motion on a closed case (closed more than 45 days) and some orders, must personally be served by the Sheriff, or a person who in not a party and who is over the age of eighteen (18) years. Se Rules of Civil Procedure 1-004. 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.
- If you have received a notice of hearing, you must be prepared to present all your evidence on the day of the hearing. Bring your witnesses and written evidence. Bring copies of your exhibits and provide them to the other party before the hearing. Subpoenas to require witnesses to appear may be issued by the Clerk’s Office for any witness you need to prove your case. The Sheriff’s Office may serve subpoenas for you. Witness fees also need to be served with the subpoenas to people you subpoena (See Rule of Civil Procedure 1-045). Witness fees for any witnesses who are not expert are up to $85.00 per day plus mileage at the rate of $.44 per mile, see 10-8-4 N.M.S.A. 1974 (1995) Repl.). Expert witnesses such as doctors, psychologists or accountants may require advance payment of fees. You should consult with any expert witnesses you wish to testify for you before you arrange for a subpoena.
- Dress with dignity. Do not wear shorts, halter tops, or other distracting clothing. Be clean.
- Do not bring children to court. Unless a child has been subpoenaed to testify, find a babysitter. Children will not be allowed in the courtrooms or hearing rooms. No daycare is provided by the courthouse staff. Children may not be left unattended.
- 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 your mail fails to reach you, you may permanently lose important rights. You should file a change of address in the court file. The court of hearing office will only mail notices to the address you provide in the court file.
- Request a hearing. You are responsible for bringing your case before the judge or hearing officer by submitting a request for hearing form. Cases, which are not heard within (6) six months are subject to dismissal.
- Appear at all scheduled hearing. Arrive at least five minutes before the scheduled time and make sure the secretary or court monitor for the Judge or Hearing Officer knows that you are present. If you are requesting a relief and you do not appear, your case will be dismissed. If the other party is asking for a relief and you do not appear, they will normally get the relief they are asking for. You may permanently lose your opportunity to be heard on the issue. If an emergency arises which requires you to vacate (cancel) or continue (postpone) a hearing:
- 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 of they will agree to cancel or postpone the hearing.
- If the other party agrees, you should call the judge or the hearing officer’s administrative assistant and give a written request for a continuance, stating that the other party does not object to a continuance.
- If the other party does not agree, you should call and write to request a continuance, stating that the other party does object to a continuance. The Court or hearing officer may grant the continuance or set a hearing in person or by telephone to hear the other party’s objections before ruling on your request to continue the hearing.
- A hearing is never canceled or postpones until the judge or hearing officer cancels or postpones it. Make sure you have heard from the judge’s administrative assistant that you do not need to appear before you fail to appear.
- If you, or the other party or witnesses, 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.
- Notaries are available in the offices of the judges, hearing officers, and clerk’s offices. You must have a picture identification and you must sign in front of the notary (not before). Please do not ask notaries to sign for someone who is not present. Remember, having your signature notarized means you swear to the contents of the paper you’ve signed under penalty of perjury.