“Litigation is sometimes the only way. In that case, my job is to be an effective and efficient client advocate while minimizing the emotional and financial effects.”
The litigated divorce process is usually lengthy and each part of the process can be costly – not just on the financial front, but also in terms of its emotional toll. You can expect to go through:
- Discovery – the exchange of financial records. Usually, each spouse will be “deposed” or asked to respond to questions under oath. If discovery is carried out in an atmosphere of distrust and secrecy or outright dishonesty, it can involve a long, quarrelsome financial investigation. One way to minimize aggravation and cost during Discovery is for both sides to agree to a single financial expert.
- Property Evaluation – in high asset cases, or cases involving trusts, pensions, intangible assets and businesses or practices, property evaluation is not always straight forward and may require bringing in professional evaluators. Again, being able to agree on a single specialist can make this process smoother.
- Psychological Evaluation – if children are involved and custody is contested, psychologists may evaluate the family to inform the court prior to a custody and/or visitation decision. Although there is a strong preference to award joint legal custody in New Mexico, physical custody is often separately stipulated.
- Motions – From the moment a divorce is set in motion, spouses will find themselves facing decisions about interim spousal and child support, parenting time, insurance, medical care and school expenses. If agreement cannot be reached, motions are made to the judge to impose a decision. Motions are also used to settle matters such as abusive behavior, substance abuse or contested occupancy. Motions are prepared and argued by the lawyers on the case. Negotiating interim issues and avoiding resorting to motions spares the pocketbook and minimizes emotional wear and tear.
- Trial – If the case cannot be settled, it goes to court. Trials can take a day or several weeks and may be followed by post-trial briefs before a final decree is handed down.
Each step in a litigated divorce requires knowledgeable handling by a trial lawyer experienced with procedure, evidence and substantive law. And the more emotionally charged the divorce, the more a divorce attorney with a cool head is beneficial.
Spousal Support, or alimony, is financial support of one’s spouse after separation and/or divorce.
It is separate from child support, although alimony payments are taken into account in calculating child support. Spousal support is generally awarded if one spouse can prove financial hardship maintaining a standard of living similar to that prior to separation or divorce. Factors entering into a spousal support decision include the health, age and earning ability of the spouses, the length of the marriage, health insurance, property awards and other factors. New Mexico acknowledges several types of spousal support, including
- Temporary – can be ordered by the court in order to help the supported spouse until a final settlement is reached.
- Transitional – supplements the income of the payee and is usually tagged to specific requirements such as relocation.
- Rehabilitative – provided for a spouse seeking vocational training or additional education in order to become self supporting.
- Indefinite Duration – generally only awarded to long term marriages in which one spouse was the primary bread winner. Indefinite duration spousal support is modifiable as to amount but is intended to last until the death or the remarriage of the supported spouse.
- Single Sum, non modifiable – a non modifiable lump sum, usually paid in monthly installments. One type of single sum support is not negated by the death of the recipient.