Areas of Practice
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need a lawyer?
A: Maybe not. It is perfectly legal to represent yourself. The District Court will sell you a packet of forms that you can use to prepare your own pleadings. If you have very little property or debt, and no children, this course of action might be your best bet.
Divorces and paternity actions are very serious legal matters with financial and personal consequences that can be significant and long lasting. Court procedures are governed by rules that must be followed. An experienced attorney can be a major help during this difficult time in your life. Moreover, if children are involved you will need to revisit timesharing and support orders on a regular basis. Establishing a working relationship with an attorney from the beginning will pay long range dividends.
Q: What will it cost me?
A: Nothing for the initial consultation. Each case is different. Our fees are based on the amount of time spent on the case. The purpose of the initial consultation is to discuss the complexity and issues of your case. At that meeting you will be given an estimate of the cost, the specific hourly rates that will apply, and the retainer that will be required.
Military Discount. In appreciation of your service during these difficult times we offer a 25% discount on all fees to all members of the military and their dependents.
What issues are involved regarding our children?
A: Legal custody. Most parents have joint legal custody that means they have an equal say in important decisions for the children. In rare cases the court will award sole legal custody to one parent.
Physical custody. The physical custody, or timesharing as it is commonly called, is the area that lends itself to the most disagreement. The parties and the court are supposed to design a plan that is “in the best interests of the children.” The plan needs to take account of the age of the children, schedules of the parents, and other factors. The timesharing arrangement frequently changes as circumstances change.
Child support. Child support is largely controlled by statutory guidelines based on the parties’ incomes and certain specified expenses. An estimate can be made by using the worksheet at www.nmcourts.com though an attorney should be consulted before settling on a figure.
Q: How is property divided in a divorce?
A: New Mexico is a community property state. Most couples have some combination of community and separate property and debt. Community property and debt is normally divided 50/50, while separate property and debt goes to the person who owns or owes it. The first step is to have an attorney analyze the finances to determine whether there are valid separate interests. This step can be legally complicated. Once property is identified as separate or community, skilled help can avoid tax and other pitfalls.
Q: Can the court award alimony in New Mexico?
A: Yes. There is a common misconception that we do not have alimony here because it is a community property state. That belief is not true. Several factors are considered when determining whether alimony is appropriate in a specific case. Among the factors is the length of the marriage, relative earning ability of the parties, age, health, and other relevant information. The amount that might be awarded and the time frame are issues an experience attorney must analyze on a case by case basis. Unlike child support, there is not a simple formula for an alimony calculation.
Q: Should I have a Premarital Agreement?
A: Premarital agreements can be important to both parties contemplating marriage. They are particularly useful if the parties already have substantial assets. Many couples shy away from the topic as it is a distinctly unromantic topic. Despite that characteristic, a premarital agreement can help avoid more serious disputes in the future.
Q: What action should I take if I have a child but am not married?
A: This situation probably leads to the biggest mistakes people make in the domestic relations area. There is a tendency to avoid lawyers and courts, leaving serious issues unresolved. Properly handled, there should be judicial orders detailing legal and physical custody, and support. Both parties and the children are better protected by having their rights clearly defined, and having a mechanism to enforce them.