Grounds for Divorce in New Mexico

Learn more about no-fault and fault-based divorce in New Mexico.

By , Attorney

Anyone contemplating divorce understands that the legal process can be emotional and complicated. But, if you know your state's divorce laws, your journey may not be as arduous as you think.

Grounds for Divorce Are Not Optional

Courts in every state require divorcing couples to identify a legal ground to terminate the marriage. When you prepare your application for dissolution of marriage (divorce), you must include a specific reason for your request. Some states allow spouses to ask for a fault divorce, which means you claim that your spouse's marital misconduct is the reason for your failed marriage. The acceptable grounds for fault divorce vary from state to state, but the most common include desertion, adultery, or abuse.

All states allow spouses to pursue a form of no-fault divorce, which is based on less specific grounds, like incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. These terms simply mean that you and your spouse can't work out your problems, and there's no chance you will reconcile. States widely accept no-fault divorce because it eliminates the need for either spouse to point fingers at the other for the breakup. Many states also allow spouses to file for divorce based on a separation for a certain amount of time.

Incompatibility and No-Fault Divorce in New Mexico

It's a common misconception that divorces involve frequent trips to see the judge, arguments between spouses, and high legal fees. On the contrary, divorce can be a quick and relatively painless process if you utilize your state's no-fault procedures.

For no-fault divorce in New Mexico, couples must tell the court that they are incompatible and that this unsuitability is the reason for the failed marriage. When a couple can no longer live together in harmony, the court has no interest in forcing either spouse to remain married.

Although the court understands that it's not always possible for a couple to live apart while getting a divorce, couples should realize that continued cohabitation after beginning the divorce process may indicate to a judge that you and your spouse aren't incompatible. To defeat this assumption, be prepared to prove your broken relationship to the judge by providing a sworn statement or offering witness statements to corroborate (confirm) your testimony.

In addition to telling the court that you're no longer compatible with your spouse, you will also need to prove that you meet the state's residency requirements. Before a judge can grant the divorce, you must demonstrate that at least one spouse has lived in New Mexico for a minimum of 6 months before filing. You can achieve this by showing that you have a home in the state and intend on remaining as a resident.

New Mexico Offers Fault Divorce, But in Limited Circumstances

As an alternative to no-fault divorce, you have the option to ask the court to end your marriage based on your spouse's marital misconduct. Fault divorce requires the filing party to meet a standard of proof, which means that instead of just telling the court about your spouse's actions, you will need to prove your allegations and then explain how the behavior destroyed your relationship.

Like a no-fault divorce, you will need to identify the legal ground for your request. New Mexico only allows fault divorce based on the following:

  • cruel and inhuman treatment of one spouse by the other
  • adultery, or
  • abandonment.

Each legal ground has specific requirements, so make sure you understand what you need to prove to the court before you file.

For example, it's not enough just to tell the court that your spouse abandoned you. In one New Mexico case, a husband forcibly removed his wife from the marital home and threatened to kill her if she returned. The court denied the husband's request for a fault divorce based on his wife's abandonment.

In cases where you allege abandonment, you'll need to prove that your spouse left home without your consent and with the intent to never return. If your spouse moves out but continues to provide financial support, a judge may deny your request for a fault divorce.

If you can't meet the requirements for a fault divorce based on the above factors, or if you want the divorce process to be less contentious and expensive, consider a no-fault divorce.

What If We Agree to Divorce?

Despite television's typical portrayal of a contested divorce, most cases settle without arguments and knock-down-drag-out fights. Courts encourage parties to work together to decide significant divorce issues, and if you can agree, you may be able to file for an uncontested divorce.

To successfully file for an uncontested divorce, you must meet the residency requirements for divorce, and you and your spouse must agree on the following issues:

  • that you would like the court to terminate your marriage because you are incompatible and there's no chance for reconciliation
  • how to divide marital property and debt, and
  • whether either spouse will provide the other with spousal support.

If you have minor children at the time of the divorce, you will also need to decide:

Once you agree, you and your spouse will work together to draft a marital settlement agreement to present to the court. This legal document outlines your specific expectations on the above issues and will serve as a guide for each of you to follow once the divorce is final. If either spouse disagrees during the divorce process, the court will proceed with a contested divorce, meaning you may need to appear in court to ask the judge to decide any remaining disputed issues.

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