6 Things Divorce Lawyers will Never Tell You (Part 2)
The Playing Field is Smaller Than You Might Think
Many people think there are dozens of decisions to make in a divorce and that all of the marital assets are “up for grabs” in the divorce process. That is not true. While people picture a 100-yard football field, what we are really dealing with in most divorces is a 10-yard football field. The process is much more narrow and straightforward than most people realize.
First of all, New Mexico is a no-fault state. That means you do not need to prove wrongdoing or abuse to file for divorce in a court of law. If you pursue a no-fault divorce, you will need to state that incompatibility is the reason you are filing.
Secondly, New Mexico is a community property state, which means any money you and your spouse earned during marriage, and all property bought with that money, are considered community property. You and your spouse own equal parts of it. And any debts you or your spouse took on during marriage are generally considered debts of the couple.
The goal of the legal process is to divide your and your spouse’s assets and debts as evenly as possible. In many cases, this can be done using a simple spreadsheet to add up your assets and debts. This step is fairly simple when both spouses receive regular paychecks from employers. This spreadsheet will give you an idea of what your property settlement should look like. Your attorney should have a good idea of what the settlement will look like early in your case.
Your property settlement is based on facts and numbers. For example, if we divide the equity in your house, we might get two estimates of the home’s value. One estimate might indicate that the home is worth $150,000, and another might say it’s worth $175,000. Right away, we know what the settlement range is for your home.
But regardless of what the property settlement is, if you have children, the court will set child support. That is done by statute. It is based on a formula, and in most cases, you can’t argue about it or negotiate to change it. The court will look at both spouses’ income, as well as day-care and other expenses, to determine how much child support one spouse will pay the other.
Regarding spousal support, your attorney will address this issue if you and your spouse have considerable assets, if you were married for a long period of time or of one of you needs financial help.
If you will be receiving alimony from your spouse, your attorney should be able to give you a pretty good estimate of the amount you will receive, based on both of your incomes and how long you’ve been married.
This isn’t as difficult as many people think. Many lawyers want people to think it’s complicated and difficult and that it takes a lot of time to get through the process. That is sometimes the case, but not always.
Also, most lawyers do a poor job of telling people what is negotiable and what is not. The more time you spend haggling over property and other details, the more you will spend in legal fees. Your attorney’s job is to let you know what you can dispute or negotiate and what you cannot. On those issues that are negotiable, your attorney should help you decide what is worth fighting for and what isn’t.