We have heard time and again about the damaging impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially for those in our state already experiencing inequities and other challenging circumstances. Devastating in normal times, domestic violence is increasing, and resources that help people experiencing domestic violence are of particular importance as the pandemic surges.

That’s where civil legal services comes in. People experiencing domestic violence can seek restraining orders through the civil justice system. But, unlike a criminal case, nobody is guaranteed legal representation in civil cases. Civil legal service providers can help people experiencing domestic violence navigate the court system, apply for a family violence protection order in civil court, and create a COVID-19-safe plan for supervised visits with children.

We have heard from nonprofit civil legal service providers that the pandemic is making it harder on people who may be isolated with an abuser.

Providers are working hard to continue helping those in need amid the changing legal landscape during the pandemic.

Civil legal services are providing necessary help for those in need, especially during the pandemic. There is help out there. If you need legal help call 833-LGL-HELP or the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE.

Judge Erin B. O’Connell and Ernestina R. Cruz are co-chairs of the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Commission on Access to Justice. O’Connell serves in the Second Judicial District Court and Cruz is the immediate past president of the State Bar of New Mexico and a sole practitioner with a law office in Taos.

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