One of the first issues to arise when a couple decides to get divorced is which spouse gets to stay in the community residence or marital home? Often, one spouse will hire an attorney very quickly after the spouses decide to get divorced. In some cases, the other spouse may not be aware that a divorce is in the works until they are served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which officially begins the divorce process. At some point in the divorce process, one spouse‘s attorney will often send a letter that demands that the other spouse immediately vacate the family home. However, such a demand is unenforceable.
The only way to force one spouse out of the home is to get an order from the court forcing them to vacate. Both spouses have an equal right to use of the home while the divorce is pending under the community property laws of New Mexico. A Motion must be filed asking the court for such an order to vacate, which is often filed along with a Motion for Interim Division of Income and Expenses. In accordance with the Community Property Laws of New Mexico, both spouses are equally entitled to use of all of community assets, including the marital home and the spouses‘ income. In turn, the spouses are also equally responsible for payment of the community debts. The purpose of the Interim Division of Income and Expense is to divide the spouses‘ income and allocate responsibility for payment of the spouses‘ expenses while the divorce action is pending.
Upon filing of a Motion, the Court may consider a number of factors in determining which spouse should remain in the home, including, among other things: the financial situation of the spouses; the ability of each spouse to afford a separate home; the presence of children in the home; and the existence of domestic violence. After weighing all of those factors, the Court may or may not order either spouse to vacate the marital home. If the Court declines to order one spouse to vacate, then the spouses must decide whether or not they will be able to tolerate living in close proximity during their divorce proceeding. If there is a high amount of conflict between the spouses, then it is wise for one spouse to vacate the home in order to avoid any possibility of an incident of domestic violence.