RALEIGH – The North Carolina Judicial Branch has announced the launch of eCourts Guide & File, a new service that allows attorneys and the public to prepare court documents online in just a few easy steps.
With free, 24/7 online access and easy-to-understand interview questions, Guide & File will eliminate barriers and simplify the legal process, particularly for the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who come to court without an attorney every year.
“North Carolina’s courts must be available to everyone who needs them. No one should feel locked out by complicated forms and processes that are difficult to understand, particularly when one cannot afford an attorney,” said Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. “Guide & File is another way that we are making our court system more efficient, more equitable and more accessible.”
With Guide & File, users complete a three-step process.
1. An online interview guides the user through a series of online questions and, much like popular tax-filing software, each answer helps determine what the next question will be.
2. Using the information provided, Guide & File automatically creates the appropriate legal documents.
3. Completed form(s) are then printed and ready to be filed with the clerk of court, either by mail or in person.
Anyone with internet access can use the service anytime, anywhere at NCcourts.gov/Services.
Users who create an account can save and return to complete a filing at their own pace, on their own time. Guide & File will decrease the time anyone needs to spend at the clerk’s office completing forms and will minimize processing delays resulting from insufficient or incomplete filings.
“As it has been in all walks of life, the impact of COVID-19 has been a challenge for our courts and the introduction of Guide & File will help minimize in-person interactions and slow the spread of the pandemic,” said NCAOC Director McKinley Wooten Jr. “Guide & File will help protect the public and court staff, while efficiently allowing court business for these frequently used case types to proceed faster and safer than ever before.”
In consultation with clerks of superior court and advocates in the legal services community, the Judicial Branch has selected a number of case types that are most frequently handled pro se, that is, without the assistance of an attorney. Additional case types will be added over time. Initially, the service can be used to prepare documents for the following types of cases:
Absolute Divorce, Adult Name Change, Domestic Violence Protective Order, Motion to Claim Exempt Property, Petition to Proceed as an Indigent, Probate (Year’s Allowance, Summary Administration and Small Estate Administration), Small Claims (Money Owed, Repossession of Personal Property), Summary Ejectment (Complaint in Summary Ejectment, Tenant’s Answer and Counterclaims, Appeal to District Court).
Guide & File is the first component to launch as part of the Judicial Branch’s multi-year effort with Tyler Technologies to replace outdated computer systems and databases with a modern, integrated case management system (ICMS). The new system, which will be deployed in phases over the next four years, will include electronic filing and online access to court records.
As counties migrate to the new system, Guide & File will allow users to not only prepare their documents online, but to submit them to the clerk electronically, as well.