The idea of an uncontested divorce is commonly misunderstood. The idea of an uncontested divorce is obviously appealing but not always practical or achievable. A distinction must be drawn between contested and high conflict. There is a very significant difference between the two.
Divorce is generally difficult; even an amicable divorce can become complicated. Since divorce is often a costly transition, many couples seek to cut expenses by pursuing an uncontested divorce. However, an uncontested divorce implies total agreement on a wide range of issues that may not be obvious at the outset. While an uncontested divorce may be the right choice to dissolve a short marriage with no children and few assets, it is not generally a good choice for longer marriages, especially if there are children, property, assets and debt involved.
To obtain an uncontested divorce in New Mexico, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the state for the previous six months. The parties then must prepare, agree upon and sign a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), which a judge accepts. After acceptance, the duties and rights in the MSA become legally binding on both parties. For a flat fee, some divorce attorneys will prepare and file all of the necessary documents for an uncontested divorce.
However, it is seldom the case that parties have reached perfect agreement on every issue that may be pertinent to their divorce. There are several issues concerning property division, child support, child custody, tax, and debt that couples may overlook when agreeing to an uncontested divorce. In trying to obtain a fast resolution, many couples often avoid important conversations and decisions, only to be forced to revisit these sometimes difficult and then more pressing issues in the future, resulting in far greater cost.
One of the most important issues couples must agree on is the division of property and debt. New Mexico is a community property state, where both marital assets and debt are divided equally upon divorce. In some cases, parties do not have a clear financial picture of their community property and may be agreeing to an arrangement that is not to their advantage. Many spouses may try to hide their assets to avoid giving their soon-to-be ex a fair share of the marital estate. A major issue is that in an uncontested divorce is that there is seldom discovery or disclosure of assets. If one spouse is indeed hiding certain assets, then clearly there is no real agreement on the division. And though a party can return to court to address the concealment of assets, it is a difficult and expensive process.
Child support is also a very complex issue in a divorce. If filing for an uncontested divorce in New Mexico, the couple must also submit a Parenting Plan with a child support worksheet. The Parenting Plan includes each parent‘s obligation for each child, which must comply with the New Mexico child support guidelines. Couples considering an uncontested divorce should also come to an agreement on custody, the possibility of one parent moving to another state, medical costs and insurance premiums, and educational costs. These can quickly cause an escalation of conflict when they have not been properly addressed.
Debt is an issue all its own and unfortunately, the debt often far exceeds any assets the couple may have.. In community property states like New Mexico, both spouses are equally responsible for debt acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse actually incurred the debt. As noted above, since there is usually no discovery or mandatory disclosure of finances in an uncontested divorce, it is important for both spouses to know the size of their debts both collectively and individually.
While uncontested divorce may seem attractive and less costly, it is often not the right choice. Some may wish to just get it over with which is certainly understandable in light of the stress of divorce. However, rushing through the process often leads to far more stress and costs in the future. Contested does not mean conflict. It may simply mean thoughtful and careful. Once it is done, it is very difficult to undo. Consulting an experienced divorce attorney before the process begins, even for an uncontested divorce, may cause avoid complications and costs in the long run.