If you’ve decided to file for divorce, you probably have a few questions about the legal process. This article provides an overview of some important terms used in a divorce, and information about how to get started. If you have specific questions, you should contact an experienced attorney for help.
In New Mexico, divorce is also referred to as the “dissolution of marriage,” so you may see that term used in divorce paperwork or on court websites. The spouse that files for (requests) divorce is called the “petitioner," and the other spouse is the “respondent.”
New Mexico does have a residency requirement, so at least one spouse must be a New Mexico resident for at least 60 days prior to the filing of the divorce.
To begin the divorce process, the petitioner must complete one of two forms: a "Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage Without Children," or a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage With Children" (if the family has children under 19 who are still in high school).
You can find both of these forms on the New Mexico State Judiciary Self Representation Website for Family Law (see the Helpful Resources section below)
Once the petition and an "Information Sheet" are completed, the petitioner files these papers in the judicial district court for his or her county. New Mexico has 13 judicial districts, with each court covering several counties. You can find links to most of the 13 judicial district court websites by going to the state judicial branch website at www.nmcourts.com.
At the time of filing, the petitioner must either pay a filing fee to the court (payable in cash or money order), or request a fee waiver.
When you go to court to file your paperwork, it’s a good idea to bring multiple copies of the petition with you. The court clerk will stamp your copies, which you’ll then “serve” on your spouse. “Service” means that the other spouse will receive a copy of the divorce petition in a court-approved manner.
Under New Mexico law, the respondent spouse may be served by any of the following methods:
After the respondent has been served, the petitioner should file the proof of service with the court. For example, if the respondent signed the green proof of delivery card, and it was returned to the petitioner, that green card should be given or mailed into the court clerk’s office as proof that the respondent actually received a copy of the divorce petition.
If the sheriff serves the respondent spouse, the sheriff will provide the paperwork necessary to prove service.
Finally, if a third party (over 18) serves the divorce paperwork, the petitioner should have that person write on an extra court-stamped copy of the petition that he or she delivered the paperwork to the respondent spouse.
The respondent spouse should complete an appearance form and a written response to the divorce petition within 30 days of service of the petition. In the response, the respondent can either agree or disagree with what the petitioner has stated in the divorce petition. The respondent must deliver the original response to the court and send a copy to the petitioner.
Both spouses must exchange certain financial information no later than 45 days after the petition is filed.
One of the financial disclosure forms, called the “Notice of Compliance with Rule 4-123 NMRA,” lists all of the other financial forms that must be exchanged. The mandatory financial disclosure requires both spouses to produce information about:
You can find a wealth of information on the divorce process and related issues in our section on New Mexico Divorce and Family Laws. If you're in the initial phases of a divorce, see our section on Getting Divorced for introductory articles on important topics you'll want to understand.
The official approved forms for divorce are somewhat buried on the court website. The easiest way to access the forms is to go to the judicial branch website at www.nmcourts.com. Once there, click on the link for the "Supreme Court Law Library" which is under the listing “Court Sites.” At that link, click on the yellow box for “New Rules and Divorce Forms.” The forms are "Rule Set 4A, Domestic Relations Forms." These forms must be printed out to be filled in either by hand or typewritten.
Some of the judicial courts hold free seminars on representing yourself in a divorce. For example, the first judicial court holds a Saturday morning seminar and for a fee, it provides informational packets with the court-approved forms.
There are also court-sponsored “settlement facilitation” services. These sessions offer self-represented couples a chance to meet with an experienced, neutral third party, usually a trained mediator or attorney, who can help them reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce.
The state judicial branch has links to the online judicial district websites. For the judicial districts that have websites, each has its own unique format and content. Some judicial districts do not have any website at all.