Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)

In New Mexico, divorce is known legally as “dissolution of marriage.” New Mexico (as most other states) allows for no-fault dissolution of marriage. It has been many years since courts would not grant couples a divorce unless one of the spouses could establish what the law considered sufficient grounds to terminate the marriage.

Today, the court will dissolve a marriage if one spouse petitions the court, and alleges incompatibility, cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, or abandonment. Incompatibility, which is probably the most commonly used reason for a dissolution, will be found “when, because of discord or conflict of personalities, the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship are destroyed preventing any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” There does not have to be any showing of misconduct by either spouse. Misconduct may, however, still be relevant to issues such as custody or visitation with minor children. Nevertheless, for purposes of the reasons for ordering the dissolution of a marriage, misconduct is not an issue.

In order to bring an action for dissolution of marriage, either spouse must have resided in New Mexico for six months before filing the petition, and have had a “domicile” in New Mexico. “Domicile” means a physical presence in the state, and a present, good-faith intention to live in the state permanently or indefinitely. A member of the Armed Forces stationed in New Mexico is considered to have a domicile in the state, as is a person or spouse who lived in the state for six months before being called to active duty service outside of New Mexico.

A petition for marriage dissolution must be filed in the county where either spouse resides. If one spouse lives in Albuquerque, and the other spouse has moved out and now lives in Corrales, their petition for dissolution may be filed in either Bernalillo or Sandoval Counties. Either court may divide all of the property, wherever it may be located within the state. If the action is filed in Sandoval County, the court there has the authority to decide the ownership of the couple’s house in Albuquerque.

No-fault divorce laws mean that the reasons for a couple getting a divorce are not contentious issues for the court to decide. Even with no-fault divorce, the issues of how property will be divided, whether to award spousal support (alimony), child custody and visitation, and the calculation of child support are all areas that may be hotly disputed. If the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before the marriage, the validity and interpretation of that agreement may also be an issue.

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