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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in New Mexico

Married couples who do not want to remain in their marriages because of one or more legal reasons, may petition a District Court in New Mexico for an annulment or divorce. An annulment erases a marriage—that is, legally, the marriage never took place—while a divorce, also called dissolution of marriage, ends a legal marriage. New Mexico law authorizes annulment only when some legal grounds can be conclusively proven in court. These grounds are more limited and specific than those of divorce.

What is a New Mexico Divorce Decree?

A New Mexico divorce decree, known as the Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, is a court document establishing that an individual’s marriage was completely dissolved by a judge of a District Court within the State. This decree contains the personal information of litigants and their children (if any), all orders and decisions of the court, case information, and the obligations (financial, child/spouse-related, or otherwise) of the litigants. Without the issuance and signing of this decree by a judge, divorce proceedings cannot be finalized in New Mexico.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in New Mexico?

An annulment is the lawful nullification of a marital union. Historically, a court of law can only issue an annulment decree that declares a marriage invalid upon certain legal grounds provided by law. These grounds are compiled under Sections 40–1–7 and 40–1–9 NMSA 1978, and include:

  • Marriages between individuals who share a significant kinship. For example, aunts and nephews, parents and kids, brothers and sisters, and grandparents and grandchildren
  • Marriages where one spouse is a minor, not up to 18 years, and the marriage was contracted without the consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian

Other than the two major grounds above, a District Court judge may annul a marriage for reasons such as bigamy, fraud, physical/mental incapacity, duress, coercion, and others recognized by common law or case law. However, as New Mexico law does not specifically reference these grounds, it may not be possible to obtain an annulment under some of them.

Annulment vs Divorce in New Mexico

Annulment and divorce proceedings are two ways by which spouses can legally end their marriages in New Mexico. Usually, there are some differences between the court processes and remedies that can be awarded to spouses. In some U.S. States, persons who file for annulment are not subject to residency restrictions and are not granted permanent alimony or equal division of marital properties. However, in New Mexico, the legal process for annulment is not precisely indicated in statutes nor court rules. Neither are there annulment petition forms provided by the courts. Therefore, persons seeking annulment are advised to speak to a lawyer competent in such cases.

On the other hand, divorce proceedings begin when a person, who has lived in New Mexico for 6 months at a minimum, files a petition for divorce with the District Court and serves the other spouse (respondent) with the petition. Similar to annulment proceedings, certain grounds must be established before a petition can be filed. Per Section 40–4–1 NMSA 1978, they include:

  • Incompatibility (no-fault divorce)
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Abandonment or desertion

Petitions for divorce are filed with the court in the county where one of the spouses lives. Divorce matters that are settled in these proceedings include child custody, child support, alimony, property/debt division, and parenting time. As a result, these cases can either be contested or uncontested. That is, parties can either agree on all issues of the divorce or disagree and contest the case. In contested divorces, a respondent has 30 days to file a written response to the petition. After service, the court will set a date for a final hearing. The length of time from filing to the dissolution of a divorce case differs and mostly depends on how speedily all matters can be resolved. However, this period cannot be less than 30 days.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In New Mexico?

No, the cost of an annulment proceeding is not cheaper than that of a divorce proceeding in New Mexico. The reason court costs and attorney fees rise is because of the amount of time needed to agree on or resolve all divorce matters, and for annulment cases, establish that the statutory grounds for annulment exist. In situations where the cost of annulment is more considerable, it may be advisable to file for a divorce instead. Plus, when it is an uncontested divorce case, it is possible to obtain a decree quickly and at no severe cost to the litigant.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in New Mexico?

When spouses are in total agreement of the terms of a divorce, including terms of spousal/child support, custody, responsibility of debts, and property distribution, it is referred to as an uncontested divorce in New Mexico. Typically, with uncontested divorce proceedings, there is no need for litigation or a lengthy trial. Hence, parties who file for uncontested divorces spend less time and money in court than when the case is contested.

Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, the legal forms used to file for an uncontested divorce can be downloaded online from the New Mexico Courts website or obtained through local District Courts in paper format for a slight fee ($5 to $20). Individuals may use the Find A Court webtool to obtain the physical addresses, contact numbers, and working hours of the District Courts. The Domestic Relations Forms are divided into three groups, according to the stages of divorce:

  • Forms for filing/service (Forms 4A–100 to 4A–105 NMRA)
  • Forms for requesting temporary action (Forms 4A–200 to 4A–215 NMRA), and
  • Forms needed to finalize the divorce (Forms 4A–300 to 4A–313 NMRA). However, in uncontested divorces, these forms can be used in combination with forms from the other 2 stages.

Generally. persons filing for a divorce without children will be required to complete the following forms:

  • Domestic relations information sheet (Form 4A–101 NMRA)
  • Petition for dissolution of marriage—without minor children (Form 4A–102 NMRA)
  • Marital settlement agreement (Form 4A–301 NMRA)
  • Final decree of dissolution of marriage—without minor children (Form 4A–305 NMRA)
  • Summons (Form 4–206 NMRA)

Whereas, persons with children must file the following forms:

  • Petition for dissolution of marriage—with minor children (Form 4A–103 NMRA)
  • Custody plan and order (Form 4A–302 NMRA)
  • Child support obligation and order (Form 4A–303 NMRA) and an attached child support worksheet, in accordance with Section 40–4–11.1 NMSA 1978
  • Domestic relations information sheet (Form 4A–101 NMRA)
  • Marital settlement agreement (Form 4A–301 NMRA)
  • Final decree of dissolution of marriage—without minor children (Form 4A–305 NMRA)
  • Summons (Form 4–206 NMRA)

Alternatively, individuals may contact the Supreme Court Law Library at (505) 827–4850, via email, or by mail at the address below, to assist with finding the forms needed for an uncontested divorce.

P. O.Drawer L,

Santa Fe, NM 87504–0848

New Mexico statutes do not explicitly indicate whether court records from uncontested divorce cases are open to the public or not, or if there is a statutory period within which these records are available or not. However, parties involved in a divorce case can obtain these records at any time. The Clerk of District Court in the county where the divorce was finalized may be contacted for more information.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in New Mexico?

Individuals who want copies of their divorce decrees in New Mexico may request them in writing or orally from the Clerk of District Court in the county of divorce. Requests can be made in person or by mail and copies may be obtained the same way. The following information is necessary to obtain a divorce decree or record:

  • Complete names of both parties of the divorce
  • Case number and year of filing (if known)
  • Estimated filing date of the divorce action

There is a copy fee attached to these requests. It is advisable to contact the Clerk’s office to know the cost of copies and approved payment methods. Persons who want copies delivered to them by mail must include a self-addressed stamped envelope in their initial request.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Do I Get a New Mexico Divorce Decree Online?

A divorce decree cannot be obtained online in New Mexico. Interested parties must request in-person at the courthouse where the divorce case was concluded or send a mail to the Clerk of Court’s office, as explained above. The contact information and addresses of the courthouses can be obtained with the Find A Court online tool.

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