In New Mexico, the legal term for a divorce is a “dissolution” of marriage. Although state law allows a few fault-based grounds for dissolution, such as adultery, it is not necessary to prove fault to dissolve the marriage. In most cases, the ground used for divorce is known as “incompatibility.”
The case starts when the person seeking the dissolution files a petition and an information sheet. The person filing the petition becomes known as the “petitioner” in the case, and the spouse against whom the petition is filed is known as the “respondent.” Together, they are known as the “parties” to the action.
The petition is filed in the judicial district that includes the county in which one of the parties resides. New Mexico has 13 judicial districts, each of which includes several counties. The petitioner must pay a filing fee or request a waiver of the fee due to a low income level. If the fee waiver is granted, this is known as “free process.”
Next, the petition is served on the respondent. There are very specific ways that this must be done, and it is important to note that the petitioner cannot just give a copy to the respondent. If the respondent cannot be located, he must be served by publishing a notice in a newspaper. There are also specific rules that govern how this must be done.
The respondent has 30 days after the date he is served to file his response with the court and to serve a copy of it on the petitioner.
Within 45 days after the petition for dissolution is filed, both parties must file mandatory financial disclosures, including specific information about their assets, debts, income, and expenses. The court later uses this information to ensure that the parties’ property is divided equitably.
What happens next depends on many factors. In an uncontested divorce with no children, proceedings can move quickly. However, if the parties own a lot of property, if they have children, or if they disagree about factual or legal issues, dissolution proceedings can take years.
Because a dissolution proceeding ends the marriage, the following issues involving the parties and their minor or dependent children must be addressed:
- Division of property;
- Division of debts;
- Spousal support (sometimes known as “alimony”);
- Division of retirement assets;
- Child custody;
- Child time sharing;
- Child visitation; and
- Child support.
If the parties make a reasonable agreement about all of these issues and present it to the judge in the proper form, the judge will likely approve it. However, frequently, the parties cannot, or will not, agree. Additionally, individuals often do not know or understand their rights under New Mexico law. This can cause them to make agreements that may not be in their best interest or in the best interest of their children.
An experienced New Mexico family lawyer can help you understand the laws that apply to your marriage and obtain the result that is best for you and your children. If you’re faced with dissolution proceedings or are thinking about filing proceedings against your spouse, contact the Lightning Legal Group. We understand the toll that a negative relationship can take on a person, and we’ll help you find your way. Contact us today at (505) 247-2390 for experienced legal advice.