Each New Mexico divorce is unique to some degree but certain laws and elements are common to all divorces. It’s important to get to grips with these when facing a marriage breakdown.
Without a good understanding of the laws concerning who can get divorced in New Mexico and the relevant rules on property division, spousal support (alimony), child custody, parenting and child support, you can run into legal problems or agree to a settlement that is not necessarily in your best interests.
Here are the basics of what you need to know if you’ve been served with divorce papers or plan to file for divorce in New Mexico…
No-fault and at-fault divorces in New Mexico
New Mexico is one of the states with the highest divorce rates in the country.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of divorces available in the U.S.: at-fault divorces and no-fault divorces.
In an attempt to de-clutter the family courts, many U.S. states allow only no-fault divorces. This is where no blame is apportioned to either spouse and their respective behavior has no bearing on the divorce proceedings, which often tends to diffuse the situation and helps avoid protracted legal battles. These are considered true “no-fault divorce states”.
New Mexico, however, offers separating couples the option of a no-fault divorce (by far the most popular version) or an at-fault divorce.
What are the grounds for divorces in New Mexico?
On the Dissolution of Marriage form, spouses must cite the grounds (legal reasons) for divorce.
No-fault divorces are granted on the grounds of incompatibility, i.e., the marriage is irretrievably broken with no hope of repair (“irreconcilable differences”).
Most at-fault divorces are triggered by misconduct by one of the spouses. The spouse requesting the divorce is required to substantiate one of the following grounds before the divorce will be granted:
- Cruel and inhuman treatment
However, at-fault divorces are increasingly rare in New Mexico because they generally increase the adversarial nature of the process, while raising stress levels and the expense of the process for spouses. A court case can also be detrimental to any children they may have together.
With no-fault divorces, parents can often maintain an amicable relationship that’s better for them and their children.
How long must divorcing couples live apart in New Mexico?
To be granted a no-fault divorce in New Mexico, you must demonstrate to the court that your marriage is over with no hope of reconciliation.
There is no set waiting period, although couples must usually live separately and apart. Technically, however, you can be considered “separated” even if you live in the same house but with separate sleeping quarters, finances, social circles, etc.
A period of 30 days must usually pass between filing for divorce and the marriage being dissolved.
It’s also important to note that to file for divorce in New Mexico, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months and have a “domicile” in New Mexico.
Do you always have to go to court to get a divorce in New Mexico?
All divorces in New Mexico are legal processes. That means they require some court intervention and are not complete until signed off by a judge.
However, whether you must appear in front of a judge at all depends on the nature of your divorce and whether all matters have been settled to the satisfaction of the courts.
Generally speaking, most couples prepare a divorce settlement agreement after a process of collaboration between lawyers or, if there are disputes over certain matters as is quite common, mediation sessions or another alternative dispute resolution method will be used to resolve them. This reduces the need for court intervention.
Key divorce matters to settle
In New Mexico divorces, the key matters to settle are usually the following:
- Property division: the marital estate must be divided equally between the two parties.
- Spousal support: to ease the transition to independence and self-sufficiency, spousal support or alimony may need to be paid by the higher-earning spouse.
- Child custody and parenting: all custody and parenting decisions must be made in the best interests of the children.
- Child support: both parents are responsible for contributing to the financial support of their children until the age of majority — and this can be enforced by the courts.
How long do New Mexico divorces take?
How long your divorce will take depends greatly on whether you and your spouse agree on the key matters and, if not, how committed you are to resolving your differences.
A true uncontested divorce is where a couple agrees on all the key matters. Such a divorce may be granted in as little as a month after filing the papers.
It is common, however, for certain matters to be disputed at least initially, which means that many divorces are partly contested.
If disputes can be settled relatively quickly, the divorce process might take a few months. If litigation is necessary, a divorce can take more than a year.
Getting the right legal assistance from the start can reduce the resources expended on the divorce process. Alternative dispute resolution methods are nearly always preferable to litigation.
Get help with your divorce in New Mexico
Talking your situation through with a divorce lawyer at Legal Solutions of New Mexico can save you time, money and stress during the divorce process.