Legal separation is an alternative to divorce that is available to any New Mexico couple who no longer wants to live together but wants to remain married. It is a formal agreement, drafted by an attorney, and approved by a judge.
Attorney Bob Matteucci assists couples who want to get a legal separation. He can counsel you as you make decisions about your split, and draft and file all of the documents required by the state to formalize your agreement.
What Is A Legal Separation in New Mexico?
Many couples choose to do a “trial separation” before getting divorced. A period of time living apart can help the couple decide to split up or give them the space they need to work things out and get back together. While similar, this is not what a legal separation is.
A legal separation is like a divorce, except at the end of the process, the couple is still married. However, the parties must live apart and intend to live apart for the rest of their lives.
Neither party may remarry, but each of them may live their own life. If either party wants to marry someone else in the future, they must first file for divorce from the spouse they are legally separated from.
The process is considered court-supervised because the parties must come to a formal agreement on:
- The division of marital assets and debts;
- Child custody and visitation;
- Child support payments; and
- Spousal support payments.
Once a formal agreement is reached, it is drafted by an attorney and presented to a judge for approval.
Why Is Legal Separation Desirable?
Permanently separating from your spouse, and making difficult decisions about property division and child-rearing makes legal separation a lot like divorce. Yet it is not. The separating couple remains legally married, and neither party may remarry. Some people have a difficult time understanding why a separating couple would not just get divorced, but there are many reasons why a legal separation may be appealing.
- Religious reasons. Some religions forbid divorce, so a permanent legal separation allows a couple to do what’s best for their family without violating their beliefs.
- Co-Parenting. Although many couples are able to co-parent just as well after a divorce as before, some people feel that keeping their marriage intact is better for their children.
- Benefits. Some spouses want to stay married so they can retain certain marital benefits such as health insurance, retirement benefits, or Social Security.
- Tax purposes. Some couples structure their relationship to take advantage of certain tax laws.
- Joint business ownership. When a couple owns a business together, but are now strictly business partners, it can make sense to stay married to keep the business running smoothly.
- Uncertainty about divorce. Some couples simply are not ready to divorce and want to live on their own for a while before taking such a drastic step.
Attorney Bob Matteucci regularly counsels New Mexico couples who are interested in legally separating for these and other reasons. He does not pressure couples to share the reason why they want a legal separation instead of a divorce, but it can be helpful to share that information with him.
If health benefits are a key reason a couple does not want to divorce, Bob can review relevant policy documents to ensure the insurance company covers legally separated spouses. Some policies include language cutting off former partners after a divorce or separation. You don’t want to be in a situation where you think you have coverage but do not, so it is best to share this information with Attorney Matteucci.
The same thing goes if a couple is staying together for retirement benefits, tax purposes, or because it is good for their jointly owned business. Attorney Matteucci can review contracts and relevant laws to ensure remaining married, but legally separating, will actually accomplish your goals.
How Do I Obtain A Legal Separation?
Under New Mexico law, couples who want to legally separate must prepare a separation agreement and file it with the court.
The agreement is a written document that explains the spouses’ rights and obligations. It formalizes the couple’s agreed-upon division of assets and debts, documents the couple’s child custody and support plan, spells out any alimony or spousal support obligations, and addresses any other issue the parties deem necessary.
Most couples negotiate an agreement and have it drafted up by an attorney so it can be rubber-stamped by the judge. In the rare cases where a couple cannot agree to the terms of a legal separation, they may litigate their dispute, much like one would an acrimonious divorce.
Do I Need An Attorney To Obtain This Status?
While it is technically possible for a couple to draft a separation agreement and file it with the court without the assistance of an attorney, it is generally not a good idea. A poorly drafted separation agreement can haunt you for the rest of your life. And getting separated may impact your life in ways you did not consider.
It is best to work with an experienced New Mexico family law attorney like Bob Matteucci if you think legal separation is the path you want to take.
If you are comfortable doing so, you can share your reasons for seeking a separation rather than a divorce with Attorney Matteucci. As discussed above, there may be contracts or laws that he needs to review to ensure that your separation will not have unintended consequences on your health insurance, retirement plans, or jointly owned business. Getting Attorney Matteucci’s advice on what steps you should take to reach your desired outcome is invaluable.
Sometimes couples think they are on the same page regarding the terms of their split, only to find they have a significant disagreement over a key issue — like who is responsible for a particular debt, or how much time the couple’s children should spend with each parent. In situations like these, Attorney Matteucci can help you negotiate an agreement, or go through a more formal dispute resolution process like mediation.
Contact A New Mexico Legal Separation Attorney Today!
Legal separation is not for everyone. Before deciding whether it’s right for you and your partner, it is best to speak with a knowledgeable New Mexico family law attorney like Bob Matteucci. He will listen to your concerns, and answer any questions you may have about legal separation. He can also discuss other options like divorce or a trial separation with you and your partner if it seems like legal separation is not a good fit. Please, contact him today to schedule a meeting.
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with legal separation matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.