Divorce is one of the most stressful and confusing phases of life for many people. It’s hard enough dealing with the emotional and financial fallout of ending a significant relationship without having to worry about the legal process and the logistics of divorce. Genus Law understands how stressful and complex the divorce process can be, that's why our experienced Albuquerque divorce lawyers have created this brief overview of the divorce process as well as a free online library that answers many of the most common legal questions New Mexicans have.
How to Start the Divorce Process in New Mexico
Once you have made the decision to file for divorce, your first step should be contacting and retaining a divorce attorney near you. Make sure you understand the fee structure of the firm so there are no unpleasant surprises when you get the bill (check out our free guide to limiting divorce costs). You will then provide an overview of your situation to your attorney and they will draft a Petition of Dissolution of Marriage. Once this document is filed with the court and served to the other party, your divorce is officially underway. Your attorney will be able to determine if other documents, like a Temporary domestic Order (TDO) or a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) are needed and they will file accordingly.
Pro tip: In the unlikely event you and your spouse can agree on absolutely everything, you might qualify for an uncontested divorce, which can save you tons of time and money.
Serving Divorce Papers in NM
After the Petition is served, the other party has (30) days to respond to your petition. Because the date of service is important, a process server or sheriff is sometimes used to confirm service. Once served, the other party will likely hire counsel and a period of discovery and negotiation will begin. Both parties will then have to disclose all assets and liabilities and try to divide them. For more information on how property is divided in New Mexico, check out our community property article. Once both parties have disclosed all financial information and exchanged the relevant documentation, offers and counter-offers will be exchanged and the parties will either agree and proceed to step 4, or disagree and proceed to step 3. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on how well the couple can communicate and how realistic they are.
Settlement Facilitation in New Mexico
If you and the opposing party do not reach an agreement, as is often the case, the judge will likely require that you attend mediation. In New Mexico, this is called settlement facilitation. It normally involves a neutral third party attorney, called the settlement facilitator, who will act as an intermediary between you and your attorney in one room, and the opposing party and their counsel in another room. The Settlement Facilitator will work with both sides to ensure an agreement is reached. Typically, Settlement Facilitation can be completed within a single day, usually in increments of 4 hours.
Finalizing Your New Mexico Divorce
Once you have reached an agreement, the attorneys will draft a Marital Settlement Agreement or MSA, that contains the agreed-upon terms. This document will address the division of all assets and liabilities, child/spousal support, retirement accounts, and community/separate property and is usually the most important (and most complex) document in the divorce. If children are involved, a parenting plan will be created, agreed to and incorporated into the MSA. (Find out how things like custody and child support are determined here.) Once the MSA is signed and accepted by the court, your attorney will submit a Final Decree, which finalizes the divorce. The only remaining step could be name changes or QDROs (the document that divides retirement accounts).
Ultimately, many factors can impact how long the divorce process takes. Couples who have been married for a shorter amount of time and who have no children and relatively little community property can probably come to agreements more quickly than those who have been married for 25 years, have significant community property and have minor children. For those few couples who opt for an uncontested divorce, the whole process can happen within a month or two. However, for a more traditional contested divorce, the process can take anywhere from 3 months to a year to finalize.
For more information about each step in the process as well as other factors like custody, child support, spousal support, and domestic violence, visit our legal library and FAQs that have tons of great content that answer many of the most common questions New Mexicans have. To get help for your specific situation call Genus Law at (505)-317-4455 or contact us here and let's start solving your problem today.