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How to file for divorce in New Mexico

The official term for divorce in New Mexico is the Dissolution of marriage. It is a legal process that ends a marriage contract between two living parties. Most times, a divorce process requires that certain areas of the couples’ “once joint” life be separated. For example, there is the need to separate their financial accounts, allocate custody for existing children, and enforce financial obligations from the parents for their welfare. These and many more make the subject of divorce a matter that requires a sound knowledge of the law and legal procedures in the state. The New Mexico State Code on divorce provides interpretation and rules of court procedure for divorce cases in the state. District Courts have jurisdiction of divorce cases across New Mexico.

In a 2018 report by the US Census Bureau, New Mexico ranked 41st position in divorce rates across the Federation, with 6.6 divorces per 1000 women not younger than 15 years of age. Over the last 10 years, there has been a significant drop in divorce rates in the state by 3.6 counts per 1000 women of the same age range.

Do I need a reason for divorce in New Mexico?

New Mexico operates both fault and no-fault grounds for cases of dissolution of marriage. The following grounds are legitimate reasons to end a marriage in New Mexico District Court:

  • Abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Cruelty
  • Incompatibility

At the time of filing for a divorce, both parties must be living apart. Also, the residency requirement of New Mexico is six months prior to filing. It means that either party must be resident in the state at least 6 months before filing a divorce case. Without meeting these requirements, there will be insufficient grounds for divorce in the state.

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.

Why do I need a divorce lawyer?

Divorce cases rarely walk alone. Allied matters such as parental rights, custody, visitation, spousal support, and distribution of assets and liabilities, have the potential to create complications for an otherwise simple divorce case. Therefore, it is important to engage the services of a divorce lawyer. Services here could mean professional knowledge and advice, or representing the litigant in court proceedings. Because of their knowledge and experience, most divorce cases handled by them have a more predictable outcome.

How do I get started in a divorce in New Mexico?

Either party can file for a divorce in New Mexico, provided they meet the residency requirements. In addition, filing for dissolution of marriage in New Mexico requires that the parties already live separately. There are a series of self-help divorce forms available at the New Mexico judicial branch website. Among them are:

Petition for dissolution of marriage (with children or without children)

Marital settlement agreement (uncontested divorces will opt for simple while contested divorce is will opt for Complex)

Domestic relations information sheet

New Mexico divorce filing guidelines

Final decree of dissolution of marriage (with children or without children

Additional forms are Parenting Plan (where children are involved), Wage Withholding Order and Child Support Worksheet. Follow the instructions in the New Mexico Divorce filing guidelines and consult with the lawyer if possible for guidance. Sign all forms and submit them at the Office of the Clerk of the District Court in the resident county of either party. Submit a copy to the office of the judge in charge of the case and serve a copy to the defendant-spouse. In an uncontested divorce, the judge may decide that a hearing is unnecessary and signs the final decree of dissolution of marriage. If the judge decides that a hearing is important (as in a contested divorce) both spouses must prepare for an appearance in court during which the judge will issue court opinions on their settlements and sign the decree. Filing fees vary by county, but rarely exceeds $160. After filing the divorce papers, there is a waiting time of 30 days during which the defendant-spouse must respond. If there are no minor children, the defendant-spouse can waive the waiting time.

How to file for divorce in New Mexico without a lawyer?

The Center for Self-help and Dispute Resolution in New Mexico offers services to parties wishing to represent themselves without an attorney. Parties wishing to file for a divorce also have the advantage of an alternative method of dispute resolution under this service. The alternative method of dispute resolution provides the opportunity for an informal, cost-efficient, effective, equitable and quick resolution through a court-ordered settlement and arbitration. Individuals may still insist on a standard court litigation. While this may be possible for simple uncontested divorces, it may get complicated in a contested divorce.

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 does New Mexico Divorce Mediation work?

Divorce mediation in New Mexico could be the preference of the involved parties or a court instruction. Divorce mediation by court instruction usually follows the alternative dispute resolution process. The couple may request the services of the court-ordered mediation program or consult private mediation agencies. Either way, divorce mediation in New Mexico has a track record of yielding less expensive divorce proceedings, more private processes, and more amiable relationships post-divorce. It is also quicker and easier on the involved parties emotionally. Certain cases are not advised to opt for a divorce mediation. Among them are cases where the involved parties have problems communicating or where the possibility of assault exists.

How long after mediation is divorce final in New Mexico?

There is no definite timeline after which the divorce is final in New Mexico. However, all mediation should have taken place during the 30-day waiting period. If mediation fails, the court schedules a hearing for the parties to settle their difference by the rule of law.

Are divorce records public in New Mexico?

No. Divorce records in New Mexico are not public information under the Public Records Policy of the state. Only the parties listed in the record have unrestricted access to them. Third-party requesters must show a legitimate interest in the record under the laws of the State in order to get them.

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 a specific or multiple record. 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 New Mexico divorce records?

Interested parties should visit the District Courthouse that granted the divorce to get information about the administrative process of viewing or copying records. Being a closed record, it is important to have a proof of legitimate interest in the record or a court order to access them. Check with the district courthouse clerk the required fees, the processing time, and the mode of delivery.


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