Your “happily ever after” didn’t stay happy for long. Your “Knight in Shining Armor” has lost his charm. Your dreamgirl became a nightmare. What can you do now?

Move on with your life.

Filing for divorce is not at all an indication of weakness or failure. When you take the first steps in initiating your divorce or responding to it, you are demonstrating your strength, resilience, and ability to practice self-care. If you are strong and resilient and you are looking for a way to take care of yourself and better your situation, we can help you! Follow the outline provided in this article to re-discover freedom, and capture this opportunity of a new start.

Step  1: Create a Strategy 

As soon as you’ve made the choice to get divorced, or your soon-to-be-ex has, your first step should be contacting a New Mexico Divorce attorney so you can understand your rights, your options, and how you should proceed. While this may sound like a sales pitch, it's actually the best advice I can give. Every case is different, and there is no substitute for personalized legal advice. Your rights and options will be different if you have been married a relatively short time as opposed to if you have been married for a long time. Things like alimony and property division may need to be considered in your case. That's why you need to know what you are entitled to and how to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. 

There are many different options for “initial consultations” with an attorney. Many firms will charge the attorney’s hourly rate for a consultation, which can be around $250-$300. Other firms will offer “free” consultations but be wary of these offers if you are actually seeking input or advice. “Free” consultations typically don't offer any legal advice or case-specific help. It’s just an opportunity for the attorney to tell you if they can take your case or not. Any divorce lawyer can take your case, so these free consultations are usually a waste of time as they provide you no value or help whatsoever. Once you find an attorney that will actually advise you, you will want to create a strategy for how you will go about your case, you need a roadmap for what the procedures are, and you will want to find the best available support to help you take the next steps with your separation. 

If you need to speak with someone about what options you have and how you can protect yourself and your interests, contact Genus Law Group. We offer case strategy sessions at affordable rates where you can actually speak with an attorney about your case and concerns and get real case-specific legal advice. To set up your case strategy session, call 505-317-4455 or chat with someone now using our online chat function. 

Step 2: Petition 

When you have settled on the choice to seek legal separation or divorce, your initial step will be contacting an attorney who practices family law in New Mexico. When choosing a law firm, ensure you comprehend the charges and payment structures used by the firm so there are no shocks when you get the bill (look at our free manual for minimizing the cost of divorce). You will at that point discuss your circumstances with your lawyer, what your concerns are and what you would like to see happen in the divorce and they will draft a Petition of Dissolution of Marriage. This petition can request an order of protection, interim spousal support or child support if necessary. After the petition has been filed and recorded with the court and served to the opposing party, the process of your divorce has officially commenced. In the relatively uncommon event that you and your partner agree on everything (and we do mean everything), you may fit the bill for an uncontested divorce, which can spare you huge amounts of time and cash. But keep in mind, this option is usually only viable in shorter marriages with no children or much property. 

Step 3: Serve Opposing Party

After the Petition is served, the opposing party has (30) days to respond to your request. Recording the exact day of service is crucial, a process server or sheriff is in some cases used to affirm receipt of service. Once served, the other party will either employ counsel or proceed by themselves (pro se) and a period of discovery and negotiation will start. The two parties will at that point need to unveil all assets and liabilities and attempt to partition them. For more information on how property is separated in New Mexico, look at our community property article. Usually, property division and child custody are the most contested parts of a divorce. However, both need to be settled to form the Martial Settlement Agreement (MSA). 

Step 4: Think About The Children

Next, you must consider your children’s schedule and ideal setup during, and after the divorce. While both spouses may want sole or majority custody, it's important to realize that New Mexico Courts use the standard of best interests of the child when making custody determinations. To learn more about how custody is determined in New Mexico, check out our custody article. Depending on the situation, the court may enter an interim custody agreement that differs from the final custody arrangements. Remember that divorce is especially hard for your children. The last thing they need is parents bad-mouthing each other. Furthermore, family court judges also view that behavior negatively. Make it clear to your children that it is okay for them to love both parents, that both parents love them, and that they will have a continued relationship with both parents. We recommend using a family coach to help minimize the impact that your divorce has on the children. Furthermore, you will want to do some independent research regarding a court-ordered custody evaluation, and the basics of what elements factor into a parenting plan. Once you have a basic understanding of these two crucially important concepts, you will have a solid baseline knowledge that will allow you to follow along with the attorneys while discussing the subject.

Step 5: Property Division, Spousal Support 

After that, it would be advised that you go around your property and take note of your most prized possessions, and items that you own with your spouse that are important to you to keep. Also, take note of valuable items that you own that you would be willing to forfeit to your ex while compromising. If you want to stay in the house during the divorce, make sure you are not the one who leaves the property, as it’s easier to keep you in the home than get your ex out. This is also a good time to do your due diligence on the difference between community and separate property. One subject closely related to dividing up the belongings is determining how the finances will be accounted for. It is important to understand when spousal support comes into play, and how you can best set yourself up before finalizing these decisions in a court. Property division, child custody and support, as well as spousal support are all addressed in the Martial Settlement Agreement (MSA). The MSA is the meat of the divorce as is usually the most contentious part of the divorce. Start developing a plan to become financially independent. Search for employment opportunities if you are unemployed and pursue options that are economically advantageous to you. Also create a financial plan about how you are going to fund the divorce. Take stock of savings accounts, investments and family support. To learn more about how much divorces cost in New Mexico, check out our divorce cost article


If you need help filing or responding to a petition, or you have questions about your rights and the process, our Albuquerque divorce attorneys will be happy to set up a case strategy session with you so you can go over your case and concerns and they can provide you your options and legal advice. Chat with someone online now or call 505-317-4455 to start your new life, today!

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