Online system aids filers in divorce, domestic violence cases

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FARMINGTON — New Mexico residents have a new, free option to help prepare court paperwork to file for domestic violence and divorce cases.

The New Mexico judiciary has unveiled the Guide & File web-based application, which allows the user to answer a series of questions, and it will generate a compete court form online.

Barry Massey, New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts spokesperson, said the system is similar to computer software used to prepare tax forms like Turbotax.

The system is aimed to help self-litigants or citizens who are representing themselves in legal matters.

Self-representation occurred in about 80 percent of the nearly 8,200 divorce cases handled in state district courts for the 2018 fiscal year, according to a state Administrative Office of the Courts press release.

Jodie Schwebel, the deputy court executive officer for the 11th Judicial District, said she welcomed the new program as the legal process for handling these types of cases can be complicated and overwhelming.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for someone representing themselves to walk through the process," Schwebel said.

The application will help people prepare to file for an order of protection or restraining order in a domestic violence case.

The application will help someone file paperwork to start a divorce proceeding, finalize a divorce proceeding or respond to a divorce petition.

People also can use the program to prepare a "free process" application, asking that the fees related to a court filing be waived.

The Guide & File system removes some of the steps required to file the court documents and allow people to access forms when district courts are closed, Schwebel said.

The website for the Guide & File application also has a self-help guide for understanding the legal process for divorce cases and lists what information is needed to prepare court documents.

It could take upward of 45 minutes to more than an hour to complete the documents, according to Schwebel.

She stated the Guide & File application provides the help that the court staff often cannot provide as it must remain neutral and avoid providing advice.

The court documents that are generated with the system still needed to be filed in person at district court, and fees could be required.

The application can be accessed at https://www.nmcourts.gov/guide-file.aspx.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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