legal separation

How Do I Become Legally Separated in New Mexico?

Marriage isn’t an easy road and sometimes couples decide they need time apart. For couples residing in New Mexico who choose to live apart but aren’t ready to divorce, they generally have two options.

Some couples opt for a short-term trial separation, which is not a legal process, while they determine whether or not to reconcile. Others decide that legal separation is the better choice, living apart permanently while remaining legally married. 

If you are wondering, “How Do I Become Legally Separated in New Mexico?” a New Mexico family law attorney can help.  

What is a Legal Separation in New Mexico?

A legal separation is when couples decide to live apart permanently, but remain legally married.  Couples who choose this option follow the same legal process as in divorce, separating assets, debts, and personal property. 

During the process, the courts also decide child custody issues and determine child support and alimony obligations. Unlike after a divorce, however, the parties cannot marry another person when legally separated.  

3 Reasons to Choose Legal Separation in New Mexico vs. Divorce 

There are many reasons a couple may decide to legally separate rather than divorce in New Mexico. However, three common considerations include:  

1. Healthcare and Government Benefits

If one spouse is ill and requires the other’s health insurance, or if both parties rely on one spouse’s veteran’s disability or social security benefits, couples will often opt for legal separation over divorce. 

2. Separation of Debts

It is not uncommon for couples to legally separate because of incurred debt. A legal separation can separate debts and assign them to one spouse, absolving the other of any related liability for those debts. 

3. Religious Beliefs

When a couple’s religion prohibits divorce, legal separation allows the parties to live separate lives without transgressing their beliefs.

Couples deciding to move forward with a legal separation should seek the advice of a qualified family law attorney to understand how the law aligns with their reasoning for a legal separation. 

Requirements of Legal Separation in New Mexico

There are no residency requirements for couples opting for legal separation in New Mexico. However, minor children must reside in the state for at least six months before any rulings on custody, visitation, or child support issues. 

A qualified family law attorney will help couples complete and submit the required documents, with a filing fee, to the courts. 

By statute, parties must be living permanently and separately apart from one another at the time of filing and intend to continue as such.  After the courts have verified all documents and the respondent has been served, there will be a 30-day wait period prior to any scheduled hearings. 

It’s highly recommended that couples work with an attorney to agree on separation of property, assets and liabilities, child custody, and financial support matters in advance of hearings. If details can be decided in advance, a complete settlement agreement may be presented to the court for judgment. Otherwise, couples will be subject to the judge’s ruling at the time of the hearing.  

Consult a New Mexico Family Law Attorney Today

New Mexico family law can be complex and challenging to navigate. If you and your spouse are considering a legal separation, you will be making significant decisions that could significantly impact your future. 

It’s a good idea for each of you to retain an experienced New Mexico family law attorney to act as your advocates. If you are moving ahead with your legal separation, contact our law firm to schedule a comprehensive review of your case.