Divorce can be a stressful, lengthy, and expensive process. But you can save time and money if you and your spouse are able to agree on all of the issues involved in ending your marriage. This article explains the basics of how to get an uncontested divorce in New Mexico, along with other options if you don't meet the state's requirements for an uncontested divorce proceeding.
In order to file for an uncontested divorce in New Mexico, you and your spouse must completely agree about all the decisions that are required to finalize a divorce, including:
In addition, both you and your spouse must sign all the required forms—including your marital settlement agreement—and file them together at the outset of the divorce proceeding (more on that process below).
Many divorcing couples are able to get a DIY divorce (without hiring attorneys) when they qualify for an uncontested divorce, either completely on their own or with the help of an online divorce service. But it's often wise to have a lawyer at least review your marital settlement agreement to ensure that it's fair and protects your legal rights. Speaking with an attorney is an especially good idea if you have complex assets to divide, like retirement plans or a family business.
If you and your spouse can't file all the forms at the same time—because you haven't been able to reach an agreement—New Mexico courts will consider your divorce to be "contested." This doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have to go to trial to have a judge decide the contested issues for you. But you will have to go through all the steps for the standard New Mexico divorce process. You might have to hire attorneys and/or pay for mediation to help you negotiate a settlement. You might also need to hire other experts and have court hearings on issues like temporary support. All of that will add to the final bill, even if you ultimately sign a comprehensive settlement and avoid the extra expense of a trial. (Learn more about how contested issues impact the cost of divorce.)
In New Mexico, a divorce is also called a "dissolution." The laws and paperwork you will need to fill out and file may use either or both terms, so don't be confused.
In order to file for any divorce in New Mexico, you must meet the state's residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for the previous six months. You must also intend to stay in New Mexico indefinitely (unless you've met the residency requirement by being stationed in the state while serving in the military). If you're currently staying on a military installation outside of the state (because either you or your spouse is stationed there), you may meet the residency requirement as long as you lived in New Mexico for at least six months before entering the military, and you plan to return. (N.M. Stat. § 40-4-5 (2021).)
Unlike some states, New Mexico doesn't have separate forms for uncontested divorce (such as a joint petition form). However, you and your spouse must prepare and sign the completed forms in order to obtain an uncontested divorce. The required forms include:
If you have minor children, you will also need to include other forms, including:
You can download the forms from the New Mexico Courts Divorce Forms page. You should also check with the district court clerk's office where you will file for divorce to make sure that you have all the right forms, including any county-specific ones. Some district courts have their own online divorce forms.
To simplify the process, you might instead use an online divorce service, which will provide and complete the proper forms for you, after you've answered a series of questions about your situation.
Once you and your spouse have signed the completed forms, you will then take them (along with two copies) to the clerk's office in the district court that serves the county where either you or your spouse lives. You will need to pay a fee to file your paperwork (which varies between districts). If you can't afford the fee, you can apply to have it waived.
You can find the map of New Mexico District Courts online, along with links, phone numbers, information on filing fees, and more.
Because both spouses sign the paperwork for an uncontested divorce, you do not need to go through the process of serving the divorce petition and summons on your spouse. (N.M. State Court Rules, Domestic Relations Form 4A-100(D)(20) (2021).)
You will receive a notice about the final hearing on your divorce (in the self-addressed stamped envelope that you included with the request for a hearing). At the hearing, a judge will review your paperwork and decide if your settlement agreement is fair and reasonable. If so, the judge will sign the final divorce decree.
What if your spouse won't cooperate with providing all of the necessary information for an uncontested divorce in New Mexico—but also won't respond to your divorce petition or fight you on the issues? After you've filed a dissolution petition and formally served the paperwork on your spouse, you may request what's known as a default divorce if your spouse doesn't file a response within 30 days. (The forms for an affidavit of that failure to respond and a request for a default dissolution judgment are included with the rest of the forms on the New Mexico Court website.) You should also check with your local court clerk to see if there are additional requirements for a default divorce in your district.
A judge may then sign the default judgment and final dissolution decree, based on the requests in your petition on issues such as property division or child custody. However, the judge may instead order you to appear at a hearing on the default divorce.
There are pros and cons to a default divorce for both spouses, so you should consider the risks (perhaps with the advice of a family lawyer) before you and your spouse decide to take this route.