Many people do not realize that New Mexico is actually filled with forests, and the famous Smokey the Bear that reminds us all to help prevent forest fires came from the Capitan Mountains in New Mexico.
If your marriage is about to go down in flames, you might need to think about New Mexico’s divorce laws.
1. Jurisdiction and venue
The New Mexico law provides that divorces (called dissolutions of marriage in the state) are heard by the state district court where at least one of the spouses has resided for at least six months.
This six-month window requires the person to be physically present in the state, with a residence in the state, and a good-faith intention to reside in the state permanently.
2. Rights for separated couples
Unlike many states, New Mexico law provides that a couple who has permanently separated can ask a court to divide their property, address child custody and support, or order alimony. This is probably most often used by a couple that is seeking a divorce and perhaps wanting an immediate order of child support before the divorce is finalized.
It can also be a long-term option for couples that want to separate permanently, but for some reason do not want to remove the legal bond of marriage.
3. Fault and no-fault grounds available
New Mexico does still recognize some historic fault grounds for divorce, including incompatibility, cruel and inhumane treatment, adultery, and abandonment. A couple, looking to go their separate ways, would at one time, have to prove one of these grounds in order to get a divorce. Now, New Mexico also provides divorces on the ground of “incompatibility.” This is called “no-fault” divorce.
In order to get a no-fault divorce, a couple simply has to tell a court that “because of discord or conflict of personalities, the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship are destroyed and preventing any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.”
That is a mouthful, but all it really means is that the relationship is over and the spouses want to remove the legal bonds that tie them together.
4. Splitting up can be hard to do
In today’s world, a divorce is not a fight over whether a couple is going to split up. The fight is over money and children. In New Mexico, a court granting a divorce “may” (and in most cases will) address the division of the couple’s property, spousal support (alimony), and child custody and support.
Courts have a lot of leeway in dividing up property, and can award extra assets or support payments to one spouse as a way to help that spouse transition to a new lifestyle or get re-training to start a new job.
Children are often the most difficult issue in a divorce.
New Mexico has established a presumption in favor of joint custody. This tends to make things a little bit easier.
New Mexico has also developed worksheets that are used to determine the presumed amount of necessary child support. It considers numerous factors, but primarily the income of each spouse and the share of custody.
A judge cannot deviate from the worksheet amount without explaining why in a clear statement of reasons.