What to do before filing for divorce

There are many steps that must be completed to successfully file for divorce. The ideal aim is for an amicable settlement to be reached in which both parties have the financial wherewithal and personal confidence to embark upon their new journey as single people. Couples with children will want to ensure they are protected from upheaval and provided with a stable coparenting environment in which they and their children can flourish.

Understanding the divorce process

There is no need to assign fault in a New Mexico divorce and no need for both parties to agree to the divorce [1]. New Mexico is a No-Fault State, meaning that if one person wants a divorce, they will obtain one. The reasons for wanting one is not a necessary factor and there are no defenses to divorce.

To file for divorce, one or both spouses must have lived in New Mexico for at least 6 months. Whichever spouse files for divorce must pay the filing fee. The person who files for divorce will be known as the Petitioner, while their spouse will be known as the Respondent. Once filed, the Respondent will have 30 days to respond to the Petition. They can choose to admit or deny these allegations.

Ideally, both parties will want the same outcome and will come to an amicable agreement before the divorce papers are filed so one party’s proposals for settlement can be accepted and the divorce can be expedited.

If the Petitioner fears for their safety and is afraid to discuss divorce plans with their spouse or afraid of their reaction once they learn of the divorce, they should seek advice from a lawyer who is experienced in all aspects of divorce law in Santa Fe about sensible safeguarding procedures to maintain personal security in the run-up to and during divorce proceedings.

Preparation is key

A divorce will determine how marital property, which includes assets and debts, will be divided and, if the parties have children, who will have custody, make decisions, the amount of time each parent has with the children and the amount of child support that will need to be paid by one parent. If this can be agreed-upon between spouses, it is extremely helpful if both parties can prepare some form of documentation to capture their agreement prior to filing the divorce papers as this can reduce costs, expedite the process and ensure transparency.

Should either party be concerned that their spouse may attempt to hide money, assets or otherwise work to disadvantage them, they should be proactive in preparing as much as possible prior to serving the divorce papers.

This should include:

Financial information

Keeping stringent financial records of income, expenses, debts and assets will simplify the division of assets process and allow for easier tracing should one party try to secret money or dispose of assets. In cases where assets are titled individually or were obtained by one person prior to the marriage, they should be uniquely identified.

It is helpful to understand the household’s typical expenses that should remain unchanged post-divorce. This includes housing and utility costs for whichever party retains the family home, if such a thing is a possibility.

Personal information

There are many important documents you may need during your divorce. These include any prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements, children’s birth certificates, insurance policies, car titles, retirement plan information, employment benefit information, property deeds and bank statements.

It is helpful to gather these documents together and, if necessary, store photocopies safely outside of the home before beginning divorce proceedings if you are concerned that your spouse may try to interfere with the process.

Establish financial independence

If possible, it is wise to set up separate bank accounts and credit cards prior to divorce in the event your spouse will try to cut you off financially during the divorce process. Punishing one spouse by financially isolating them is not allowed in a divorce, however there can be a delay in obtaining court intervention. Ideally, you should have sufficient funds to cover any emergency expenses that arise during or shortly after the divorce [2].

Make sure you have a safe place to live

If you are concerned for your personal safety or that of your children, you should identify a safe place to live before serving the divorce papers. Seek specific advice where necessary to protect yourself and your children from harm.

If the divorce is amicable, you will still need to determine whether the primary parent will keep the family home to provide stability to any children of the marriage or whether the property will need to be sold and the proceeds split. There will be costs and logistical complications associated with either decision. Your attorney will help you with this process and making these decisions, however it is sensible to consider these at the outset.

Child custody agreements

The children’s well-being must be prioritized in all cases. The state of New Mexico favors joint custody where appropriate, so it is helpful if both parties can agree on an amicable co-parenting solution that allocates appropriate visitation and cost sharing between each party.

Divorces can be amicable

Agreeing on a mutually acceptable outcome with your spouse can dramatically ease the divorce process, reduce the costs involved, and shorten the timeline. By putting appropriate preparations in place and communicating effectively, it is possible for a divorce to end amicably and for both parties to emerge largely unscathed. To begin your divorce process, speak to the experts at the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer today.


[1] https://seconddistrict.nmcourts.gov/self-representation/family-law/divorce/
[2] https://www.investopedia.com/how-to-un-merge-your-money-in-a-divorce-4687311