How Long Will My Divorce Take? 

One of the questions we get most frequently is how long will it take to get divorced?  The answer has many variables. In short, it can possibly be a fairly quick and painless process.

Uncontested Divorce

High Conflict Divorce Leads to High Costs Divorce
High Conflict Divorce Leads to High Costs Divorce. This Can be Avoided!

We get many calls where the client states that they just want a quick and inexpensive divorce, stating that the divorce is “uncontested.”  In reality, few divorces are completely uncontested.

A truly uncontested divorce means that the parties agree upon all the terms.  Not only that, but the parties have put those terms in writing and the agreement is ready for entry with the court.

A divorce is not uncontested if any of the terms have not been agreed upon.  And typically, the divorce is not uncontested even when the terms are tentatively agreed upon but have not been put in writing.

It is remarkable how often the parties have agreed upon the terms until it is put in writing.  Once it is put in writing, one or both of the parties will not like what they see.  At that point, the case is moving towards litigation.

Terms Agreed Upon and Put in Writing

Lets start with the rare situation where the parties agree to all the terms and have put it in writing.  In this case, the process can be very quick.

When there is writing and that writing has covered everything including child support, which will be addressed below, the documents must simply be submitted to the court where it will await the judge’s signature.  This can generally, but by no means always, be done within a month of submission to the court. 

Contested Divorce

Contested divorce means that any term is contested.  This may seem like an exaggeration but you might be surprised at how a divorce might spin out of control over seemingly trivial terms.

The terms that are most often contested are child custody, child support and the division of property and debt.

Child Custody Disputes:  Child custody can be intensely contested. In fact, a divorce is really never final in a conflicted child custody case since the parties may fight over this literally until the child has reached maturity (which is an entirely different discussion).

Suffice it to say that child custody conflicts can be the most long lasting, expensive and stressful aspect of any divorce.  

Child Support:  Child support can be and often is disputed with regularity.  Unlike child custody, there is an end game with child support.

Child support is entirely dictated by the New Mexico Child Support Worksheets.  It is simply a matter of choosing the right worksheet (A or B) and then filling in the blanks.  The blanks are pretty straightforward.

Despite the fact that the worksheet items are pretty clear, the parties may fight over the numbers.  However, the dispute is quickly resolved in a child support hearing.  In Albuquerque, this hearing is conducted by a child support hearing officer.  This hearing is held pretty quickly once it is requested.  

Division of Property and Debt:  The division of property and debt can also be hotly disputed.  There are many elements, some of which are more intensely contested than others.  For instance, the family home can be very difficult to address, as can retirement accounts.

Other assets, property and debt can be equally challenging.  The challenge is accurately valuating the property and debt and then figuring out the fair (and legal) way to divide it between the parties.  The valuation can be extremely difficult in cases high in significant property and/or debt. The valuation may require the services of experts such as accountants, investment advisors, real estate appraisers and so on.

However, it does not require extensive assets and debt to have a high conflict divorce on your hands.  There are cases where the parties will not budge on the most trivial property issues, literally arguing over pots and pans.  These pots and pans can get extremely expensive in terms of attorney fees and costs.  More pertinent to the topic here, these pots and pans can stretch a divorce out beyond any reasonable or sensible time frame.

As one might expect, this can be a difficult and time-consuming process.  In fact, this can stretch a divorce into years, not months.

Child Support Worksheet Must be Submitted to Court

For those handling the divorce on their own without the assistance of an attorney, or anyone else for that matter, it is important to understand that you must submit a child support worksheet with the divorce documents.

Most, if not all New Mexico District Court judges, will not sign off on the divorce without the child support worksheet.  Failure to submit one will significantly delay the finalization of the divorce since it can take a while for the judge to review the documents, and failure to have the papers in order will simply send you back to square one.

In a Nutshell – It is Up to the Parties How Long the Divorce Takes 

Each and every element above can serve as an object of dispute in a divorce. There are battles worth fighting.  There are others that are better left alone.

Unfortunately, both parties must cooperate to get through the divorce.  If either behaves irrationally, the divorce can take a long time and become pretty expensive.  It is very helpful to have experienced divorce attorneys that can control the situation.