I’m considering a separation or divorce, where do I start?

Whether you live Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe or Los Alamos, the first place to begin is with a legal consultation to review your options. Simply call or contact our office and one of our friendly, knowledgeable staff will talk with you in confidence about your situation. Our law office will explain your options and help you to decide which action plan is right for your situation. Not every divorce needs to be a courtroom drama, and we can help you choose the path that suits you.

What are the different ways that I can get a divorce?

Every relationship is unique, and so is every divorce. In New Mexico, your options could include simple negotiations between the parties, formal meditation, collaborative divorce, and of course a fully contested courtroom divorce. Here are some of the differences:

  • Negotiation: For many couples, just having an attorney involved can help iron out the details through skillful negotiations. This eliminates costly courtroom hearings and the emotion and drama that comes with it.
  • Mediation: In a mediated divorce, a neutral third party (the mediator) works with both spouses to resolve issues and disputes in a divorce. At the close of a successful mediation, documents are drawn up to reflect these agreements. The mediator can be a lawyer, but doesn’t have to be. Whoever the mediator is, they are not permitted to give either party “legal advice”. Their job is to guide and assist the parties toward an agreement.

I’m already divorced and want to change the visitation schedule that I have with my children. How do I go about doing this?

If there was a written Parenting Plan that was produced in your divorce, it may need to be changed or updated. This can be a simple matter provided your “ex” agrees to the change. If, however, you can’t agree, you’ll need to hire an attorney to represent your interests. You may or may not have to go to court. A legal consultation is the best way to determine a plan of action.

We were never married and had children together. We broke up and now my “ex” is refusing to let me see the kids. What are my options?

If you are the biological parent, you are entitled to be a part of your child’s life – even if you haven’t paid child support or are behind in these payments. Your children can’t be withheld from you. These situations typically involve a variety of factors, so it’s best to get a legal opinion on what your various options are.

My ex is getting remarried and wants to move to another state with the children. I don’t want to be so far from them. Do I have to agree to this?

No you do not have to agree. Just because your “ex” has primary custody of the children does not mean that they have the only and final say in the matter. If your “ex” wants to move – for a new job or even marriage – you do have the right to object. This is definitely an area where legal representation is vital. A lawyer can most likely block the immediate move pending the court’s review of what is in the best interest of the children. Every situation is different, however, so we recommend you obtain a legal opinion on your distinct situation.

I’m gay and have been in a committed relationship for years. We bought a house together and had a life. Now the relationship is over, but we never had a partnership agreement. What am I entitled to?

The landscape for gay and lesbian law is still changing even though gay marriage was held constitutional by New Mexico’s Supreme Court in December of 2013. If you never married in a state where it was legal to do so or never executed a written domestic partnership agreement, you still have some options. We recommend you consult with one of our attorneys who will review what you own, what debts you accumulated, how long you lived together, and how things are “titled”, just to name a few areas. The bottom line here is to connect with an attorney that has specific experience with gay and lesbian law in New Mexico courts.

My ex filed an order of protection or restraining order against me and lied to the court to get the order. What can I do?

You should immediately hire an experienced attorney to represent you. This is no time to “go it alone” – a professional is recommended. If this action is also a part of a separation, divorce, custody battle, a solid experienced lawyer can help you. Call for an immediate consultation.

My child is preventing me from seeing my grandchildren. Do I have any rights as a grandparent in New Mexico?

We frequently encounter cases where grandparents are estranged from their grandchildren and desperately seek re-connection. New Mexico has a “grandparent’s visitation statute, and our law office has had success representing grandparents in situations where the children have been withheld from visitation. There are many issues surrounding whether a grandparent can successfully “force” reentry into a child’s life. Much depends on whether the circumstances of the estrangement or whether the grandparents have ever taken care of the child(ren) and for what period of time. We frequently see cases where substance abuse or mental illness issues are involved requiring the courts to address what is in the best interest of the grandchildren. This is territory that requires legal expertise.

My child was involved in a school bullying situation. How can a lawyer help my family?

Our law office has represented the child bully as well as bullying victims. There is no substitute for experience in these matters. Your best course of action is to find and meet with an attorney that has direct experience in Juvenile or Child Law in New Mexico and possibly even criminal defense, depending on the charges, if any. Many parents unwittingly compromise their child’s position or case by too eagerly cooperating with officials. We recommend you consult with an attorney quickly to get the “do’s and don’ts” in these situations. Our law office can arrange for you to see an attorney quickly.

My son or daughter has been arrested. How do I find a good lawyer?

Look for an attorney with several years of direct experience defending children in the New Mexico courts. This is not a time to consider a real estate or DWI attorney or someone without this specialized expertise. Children’s Court has its own unique rules and procedures. Our law office can provide your child with solid representation and guide your family throughout the case.

I need or am in the middle of a divorce and now there are allegations of abuse. Do I need a different attorney to handle the abuse charges?

Many New Mexico family or divorce attorneys do not handle issues involving charges of domestic or child abuse or issues involving restraining orders or orders of protection. Because these matters involve a different court (criminal court versus family court), some family attorneys don’t have the experience to adequately represent you there, or they just don’t want to practice in this area. Our Law Office and legal team has expertise not only in divorce and family law, but in representing clients with abuse or neglect charges and in situations where a restraining order or order of protection is involved. Any legal matter requiring criminal defense is one that our legal team can expertly handle.

I owned a house before I got married. Is my spouse entitled to part of this property if we divorce?

New Mexico is a community property state. That means that marital property acquired during the marriage is split 50/50 (and so is any debt). In most cases, real property (the house) that was acquired or inherited before the marriage is considered separate and will remain your sole and separate property. But, there are exceptions, so you are strongly advised to talk with an attorney to know for sure.

How long does a divorce take?

A divorce can take anywhere from one day to years. It depends on how cooperative the other side is and the specific issues that the parties have to resolve. Most people want the process to be quick rather than long and drawn out. We recommend choosing an experienced attorney that can provide you with options.

How much does a divorce cost?

It all depends on how willing the parties are to seek an agreement and how experienced your attorney is. Additionally, what you own (assets) and what you owe (debts or liabilities) can have an effect on the cost. Couples that own businesses and multiple properties are probably facing a more expensive divorce than couples with more modest assets and liabilities because it takes more time to sort out all of these issues. A good family law attorney should have many tools in their toolbox to help you through a divorce. They should be a highly skilled negotiator, expert problem-solver, and not fear the courtroom if that’s where you wind up. Not every attorney possesses all these skills. Some are great in the courtroom but aren’t good negotiators and vice versa. The presence or absence of these skills does impact your costs. If your attorney can expertly negotiate your divorce while reaching your goals without having to go to court, you can be sure that it will cost you less than resolving issues in front of a judge. But if there’s no avoiding a courtroom battle, you need a fighter and an advocate on your side – not a timid mouse.

When you interview an attorney, ask about each of these areas and get an opinion on what skills they’d rely upon to best represent your interests. At our law office, we will also provide you with an estimate on the costs and a plan of action.

What if my spouse handled all of the finances and I don’t know anything about them?

Spouses are required by law, after the divorce petition is filed, to tell each other about their financial situation and what income, expenses, assets and liabilities they have. When a divorce is filed, an order is put into place (a Temporary Domestic Order or TDO) that prevents the parties from spending money or hiding money or taking other actions involving the children until the parties reach agreement.

Do I have to go to court?

Not if you are both in agreement. You only need to go to court if other options have failed.

How do I arrange for a consultation to discuss my situation with a lawyer?

At the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer, an experienced paralegal can speak with you immediately and in confidence. If your problem is something we can help you with, the paralegal can schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys. We offer evening and weekend appointments, and if your situation is critical, we can often schedule an appointment for you immediately.

How do I pay?

You will be required to pay an initial retainer fee that varies depending on the facts of the case. The retainer amount is then used to pay for the work performed. If we can reach your goal before the entire retainer is used, you will be refunded the un-used amount. However, depending on the length of your case, you may be asked for additional retainer monies to continue the work. You will always be kept informed about the cost of your case so there are no surprises We also provide you with a written summary of all the work performed every 15 days. Our law office can offer you over 30 years of experience handling all aspects of divorce, separation, custody issues, children in trouble with the law, domestic violence and other family law issues. We are also highly experienced in LGBTQ+ family law. Contact us for an informative consultation to discuss your case.

Do you need help with a family law issue in Albuquerque, Santa Fe or Los Alamos, New Mexico?

Call the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer at 505-924-1000 and speak with a friendly member of our staff in complete confidence.