A common question our lawyers receive is the extent to which one spouse is responsible for the debts of the other after the spouses separate. This can be a significant issue when an angry or irresponsible spouse racks up debt either to spite the other spouse or in spite of the other spouse’s interest. Generally speaking, courts divide the debts of the parties similarly to the way they divide assets. First, they identify the debts, then they classify the debts as either separate or marital. Lastly, they divide the debt. The far majority of debts are considered marital debt for which both parties are responsible.
As families have changed, the roles of both parents have shifted with them. For decades, mothers have served as the primary caretaker of children, and it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon. However, whether or not parents are married, fathers and father figures can play a powerful role in raising children. A recent report issued earlier this year by the American Academy of Pediatrics summarizes much of the research relating to fathers and the important role they play in their children’s health and development. The report defines father “broadly as the male or males identified as most involved in caregiving and committed to the well-being of the child, regardless of living situation, marital status, or biological relation.” What did the study find?
Not many people missed last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. But many people do not realize that until that ruling, many same-sex couples were unable to get a divorce. Before 2015, the legality of same-sex marriage was determined on a state-by-state basis. For example, California was well-known for allowing these marriages. As a consequence, many people traveled to California and other states who would allow them to marry there. The couple would then return to their home state as married. But as some relationships soured, these couples found that they were not able to get a divorce in their home state. And because of residency requirements, which require a person to live in a state for certain period of time before filing for a divorce, they could not reasonably divorce in a different state. To do so, at least one of them would have had to have moved to a state that allowed same-sex divorces—for an extended period of time. All of that changed last year when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Potential clients often ask us how long it will take to get a divorce in New Mexico. There are three time frames that may affect the length of time: the legal residency requirement, the waiting period, and the degree of conflict between the parties.
If you believe that you need an order of protection, you may be concerned about how it could affect your children. Parenting is probably the most difficult job to do well. It is important to anticipate how issues will affect your children, particularly if you are going through a divorce or legal separation. A New Mexico court can issue an order of protection to prevent people with whom you have had an intimate relationship, as well as some people who live with you, from “hurting, threatening or harassing” you.
In New Mexico, the law distinguishes between a “restraining order” and an “order of protection.” The main concept behind both is that a court needs to intervene on behalf of a person because someone else is “hurting, threatening or harassing” them. Restraining orders and orders of protection are similar because they are both entered by courts. These orders bind the person against whom they are issued from bothering or interfering with someone else. For example, they may prevent domestic violence, stalking, assault, or physical or mental abuse.
Often, there is no logic in matters of the heart. If you are considering a divorce or separation, consider that you may not be able to predict or understand how the other person will react. Unfortunately, normally reasonable people sometimes try to exact revenge through any means necessary (and unreasonable people may be prone to do so). Many of us are familiar with some of these tactics, such as using children as pawns or destroying property. Fewer people are familiar with “insurance revenge,” which can inflict significant damage.
New Mexico is one of the few states that presumes that joint legal custody is in the best interest of a child. With a joint legal custody arrangement, each parent has significant periods of responsibility for the child and the parents work together to make major decisions about the child. But what happens when one of the parties asks to terminate joint custody? How do courts handle that situation? In making their initial determination about custody, New Mexico courts use the “best interest of the child” standard. Many factors go into this determination.
A common question we are asked has to do with the cost of getting a divorce in New Mexico. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to establish a specific amount because some marriages involve many more issues than others, such as children, property disputes, and prenuptial agreements. Also, the degree of conflict between the spouses significantly influences the cost of a divorce, known in New Mexico as a dissolution.