The steps below give you a general outline for how divorces proceed in New Mexico. Every case is different, however, depending on the specific issues that are raised. The timetable for divorces can vary greatly, from months to years.
1. One of the spouses hires a divorce attorney, who drafts a complaint. The complaint is a legal document that states why the spouse wants a divorce.
2. The lawyer files the complaint with the district court. Filing fees vary.
3. The complaint is served on the other spouse.
4. The spouse who is served is required to answer the petition within a specific amount of time (in New Mexico it is 30 days and there is no fee for filing an answer).
5. The parties then exchange documents regarding the issues. This information helps the court and the parties make decisions regarding division of property, child support and spousal maintenance.
6. If a settlement is reached, the agreement is presented to a judge. The judge asks factual questions and asks whether each party understands the agreement.
7. If the judge approves the agreement, he or she gives the couple a divorce decree that shows what they agreed to. If the couple does not reach an agreement, the case goes to trial.
8. At trial, the attorneys present evidence and make arguments for their clients. The judge decides unresolved issues. When the judge reaches a decision, the judge grants the divorce.
9. Either or both sides can appeal.
10. The judge's decree is rarely the final word. If one of the parties is in violation of the decree, for example, the other side can ask the court to enforce the agreement. Also, as circumstances change for the parties, they are allowed to ask the court for modifications to the decree.