Uncontested Divorce Without Children – What are the Steps?

If you are not familiar with it, divorce can seem like a hopelessly complicated process. It doesn’t have to be. A uncontested divorce action is just a series of steps. Take them one at a time, and the process is not so overwhelming.

If you and your spouse have no minor children, and are in agreement about all of the issues (property division, spousal support/alimony), these are the steps to follow for an uncontested divorce:

Establish Residency. Before you can begin your divorce action, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of New Mexico for six months. That spouse must also have a “domicile” in New Mexico. A “domicile” means that the person is physically present in the state, and intends to remain in New Mexico permanently or indefinitely.

Once you have established residency, you may bring your action in the county in which either you or your spouse lives. If you are the one bringing the action, you are the “Petitioner.” Your spouse is the “Respondent.”

Complete the Petition. The Petition is the document that gives your spouse formal notice that you are bringing a divorce action. It also tells your spouse what you want to with regard to dividing your property and awarding spousal support (alimony). The petition must be verified, which means that you must sign it and have your signature notarized.

Besides the petition, you will need to fill in a summons, which tells your spouse that he or she must respond within 30 days or have judgment entered by default, and a “Domestic Relations Information Sheet.” The information sheet just list the mailing addresses of you and your spouse.

File the Documents and Pay the Fee. Before you can have the petition and other documents served on your spouse, you must file them. The filing is done in the county where you are bringing the action.

When you file the summons and petition, you will have to pay a filing fee. The filing fee for a divorce case is $137. You may ask the court to waive all or part of the fee by filing a request for “free process.” The decision as to whether you qualify for free process is up to the District Court Judge.

Serve the Summons and Petition on Your Spouse. The easiest way to serve the summons and petition is to mail them to your spouse by certified mail, return receipt requested. Your spouse must sign for the mailing to give you proof for the court that the documents were received.

Most of the time, the summons and petition is served personally. Personal service is handing the respondent a copy of the summons and petition. Personal service may be done by the Sheriff or other law enforcement from the county where the respondent lives, or by any adult over 18. You must have someone other than you serve the papers.

If you cannot find your spouse after making reasonable efforts, you may get permission from the court to “serve” the petition by publishing notice in a newspaper.

Notarized proof of service, signed by the person who served the papers, must be completed and filed with the court.

Wait for a Response. Your spouse has 30 days from the date he or she is served with the petition to make a response. You may want to use this time to work out an agreement on property division and spousal support, if you have not done so already. Your signed agreement should be filed with the court before your hearing.

If your spouse does not respond in time, and there is no agreement between you, the court will generally give you everything you asked for in your petition.

File the Final Documents. If your spouse has not served a response on you, the next step is to file an affidavit with the court, saying that there has been no response. You must also file a blank certificate as to the state of the record, which is for the Clerk to fill in and verify that there has been no response.

You will also need to file two copies of a “Default Judgment and Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage,” and a wage withholding order (even if no support is being ordered). The Default Judgment form is the one the court will sign to grant your divorce.

Pick Up Your Signed Documents. The court may order you and your spouse to attend a hearing, but this is not done in every case. Generally, you may pick up your final, signed documents in seven to ten business days after you file them. When you do, you will receive copies that have been endorsed by the Clerk. These endorsed copies are the record that your uncontested divorce is final.

Taken one at a time, none of these steps is very complicated to complete an uncontested divorce. You still need to approach them carefully, as mistakes will slow everything down.

It is always best when a couple can reach an agreement on their own. It will save time and money. It will also help the process go more smoothly for both of you. If you find you are struggling to reach a compromise, consider scheduling a mediation.

This post is also available in: Spanish