Going through a divorce is emotionally trying and the process can be complex for those who have never had to deal with the legal system before. If you’ve made the decision to file for divorce, or you believe your spouse has, you likely have questions about how the process works and how you should proceed. While every case is different, there are ways you can save money,  make your case more efficient and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for yourself. These 6 divorce hacks can save both parties time, money, and hassle so that you can start moving on with your life quickly and in the best way possible. Please note that while these are greats tips for most NM divorces, there is no substitution for personalized legal advice. If you find yourself in need of help in your specific situation, please click here

1. Keep Calm and Keep Records of Everything!

Divorce is oftentimes a he-said-she-said battle. Judges are used to accusations between parties and are usually not very sympathetic to unfounded claims. That’s why it is best to document everything you want to be raised in your divorce case. If there are incidences of domestic violence, make sure you have photographs and police reports. If there are relevant text messages, voicemails or videos, make sure you have copies of those as well. Remember, it’s not about what you can claim in court, it’s what you can prove that counts. Similarly, almost every divorce in New Mexico goes through a process known as discovery. To speed this process up and to ensure a fair accounting, make a copy of all of your financial documents as soon as possible. Find loan documents, mortgage info, 401(k) and retirement accounts, 4 months worth of your (and if possible your spouses) pay stubs and anything else that may be relevant. It might be a good idea to start a divorce binder so you can collect, store, and organize all the information to make your case easier and more efficient. If you have separate property, be sure and get any and all documentation about that too.


2. Be Clear (And Realistic) About your Divorce Goals

This is something I try to impart to all of my clients. A big part of weathering a divorce is managing your expectations. Part of this is keeping in mind that New Mexico is a community property state. In a nutshell, that means all property acquired during the divorce must be divided equally. So if you want to keep the house at all costs, you have to realize that you need to find a way to balance that out with other assets. Similarly, just because you want sole custody doesn’t mean its realistic to expect it. As discussed here, New Mexico courts tend to prefer to keep both parents involved in the child’s life, unless there are valid reasons. That means fighting a losing battle to try and get sole custody when there is no real basis for it could waste alot of your time and money, as well as make you look frivolous or vindictive in the eyes of the court. Likewise, things like child support and spousal support are fairly formulaic and standardized. Fighting over these calculations, when they are properly calculated might not be worth it. That’s why you have to pick your battles and recognize what is realistic and possible. 


3. Hire an Attorney (And Why Its Worth It)

While this may sound more like a sales pitch, it’s actually the best advice I can give someone going through a divorce or custody battle- even if we aren’t the attorneys you choose to work with. I’ve been involved in literally hundreds of divorce and custody cases and I can tell you representation definitely improves your chances of getting the outcome you want. First, the only way to understand what your options and rights are and to decide which battles are worth fighting is to get personalized legal advice from an attorney. It’s hard to win a fight when you don’t know what you can do and what the rules are. Even if you have a legal strategy, you still need the expertise to execute it.  Second, courts won’t go easy on you just because you are pro se (representing yourself). In fact, courts hold pro se parties to the exact same standard attorneys are held too, so not knowing the law won’t be an excuse for you. I can’t tell you how many pro se litigants I’ve seen get every motion they have filed get dismissed because they don’t understand the format, what to do in the hearing or how the court reached their decisions. The cost of trial and error in your case isn’t just financial, you can ruin your entire case by mishandling it. Sometimes, parties come to me to help them with an appeal or motion to reconsider and the truth is most of the time its too late for these people to get the outcome they want at that point. You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and emotional stress by hiring a responsible attorney in the beginning, rather than hiring one to clean up a mess later. 


4. Establish (And Maintain) Communication

Sometimes it’s just not possible to communicate with your soon-to-be-ex without things spiraling out of control. If you guys are really that explosive, then communication is probably not in anyone’s interest. However, if you and your spouse can put your emotions aside to some degree so you can make some property division and custody decisions, you can save yourself literally months of litigation and thousands of dollars. First of all an uncontested divorce might be an option for you. If it is, that’s the best way to go! However, even if you don’t agree on everything, having the ability to discuss the problem and negotiate can go along way. This is also great advice for post-divorce behavior if there are children involved. Even though your custody agreement and parenting plan should address most issues pertaining to custody, life happens and exceptions will inevitably come up. If you and your ex can discuss timesharing modifications, pick up drop off times, and other eventualities that will come up without having to go to court, it’s better for both of you and your family. If you are just now thinking of filing for divorce, try discussing (calmly and rationally) who gets what with your spouse. If you guys can agree on most of the property division issues, you have gone a long way to deconflicting your divorce and speeding it along.


5. Don’t Panic!

Divorce is usually a really rough experience for anyone who has to go through it, but keeping a calm, level head can go along way to minimizing its impact. Part of this is realizing the court system is not designed to give you emotional justice. There are probably many wrongs you have suffered during your marriage.  Abuse, neglect, infidelity, and alcohol or drug addiction may all have been a part of your marriage, but they aren’t always a part of your case. The judge isn’t here to punish your ex for cheating on you or being a bad spouse, they are there to make sure your marriage is dissolved properly and all assets and debts are distributed equally, according to New Mexico state law. Similarly, many people going through a divorce for the first time get frustrated by the accusations made by the other party or by the lack of attention that their own accusations might be treated with. It’s important to understand that people make outrageous allegations in court all the time. The judges are used to hearing it. Just because your ex made some crazy accusations in court doesn’t mean that you have to address it. Losing your cool in court won’t do you any favors, and can actually set your case back. Some clients can get so caught up in proving they are “right” and the other party is “wrong” that they waste their chances and the court's patience with issues that really don’t affect the outcome of their case. Keep your eye on the prize and try to drown out all the noise. Remember, your ex knows exactly how to press your buttons. Don’t take the bait. 


6. Plan Ahead And Play the Long Game

As soon as you’ve made the decision to file for divorce or as soon as you know your spouse is, start thinking about what you want out of the divorce. Start collecting records and documentation, and figure out your finances. Evaluate your savings, loan potential, and possible family aid so you can withdraw, raise, or borrow the money you need to hire an attorney and get the ball rolling. If you want to stay in the marital home during the divorce, make that decision early on. While it’s a common myth that the party who leaves the marital home usually loses it, it is true that it’s much easier (and cheaper) to keep you in the home in the interim (during the divorce) than it is to remove your spouse. Similarly, if custody is a big priority for you, demonstrate that you’re the primary caregiver from day one. Courts use the standard of the best interest of the children when determining custody. The best way to get primary custody is by demonstrating that you are the one who cooks and cleans for the children, takes them to school, knows their doctors, and helps them with homework. 


While these 6 Tips For Divorce In New Mexico should provide you with the information you need to start the process and put yourself in the best position for your upcoming divorce case, there is no substitution for legal advice and legal representation by a divorce or custody lawyer. If you want more information on New Mexico divorce, custody, and child support, check out our library and FAQ sections. We also have a free podcast and video library that has tons of great free family law content. If you need help with a specific problem, contact Albuquerque’s best divorce lawyers at Genus Law Group by calling 505-317-4455 or chat with someone now using our live website chat function.  Let’s start solving your problem, today!

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Guardianship Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond