Couples should think long and hard, is divorce the only viable option of them? In New Mexico, you can also do a legal separation but you go through the same exact steps. There’s no difference in the process for a legal separation as there is for a divorce. The only difference is you’re still technically married at the end of a legal separation and you can’t marry someone else.
When there’s no alternative to divorce, the attorney can talk to them about possibly doing what we call a postnuptial agreement. Many people have heard the term prenuptial agreement, but we can also do a postnuptial agreement, which identifies the property and the debt and deals with support issues. You’re still legally married, you’re still able to participate in making medical decisions for your spouse, you can still live in the same household, you can still even operate out of the same joint bank accounts and joint credit cards. If the fear is your spouse is going to be in a nursing home and you have enough assets that you don’t qualify for the state to pay for it but you don’t want all of the assets to be depleted in caring for your spouse, doing a postnuptial agreement is one possible way to keep you married but protect the assets to a degree.
Other times if a client is in their 60s and 70s, they should think about how they think they’re going to get through the day without the assistance of their spouse? Or, how do they think they’re going to get through the next 12 months? How do you take care of the home? How do you take care of the cars? How do you travel? How do you handle your finances? Are you ready at this age to go through a huge learning curve to do all of these things on your own?
Then they should get into, why are you getting divorced? It’s not the attorney’s job to talk anyone into a divorce or out of a divorce, but sometimes they come to me because there’s been some events, they’re very frustrated, they’re tired, they just see out as where they want to go, but they haven’t thought about the consequences. Some attorneys generally will not let a potential client retain them at that initial consultation until they’ve really thought through what their life is going to be like. Then if they come back and say, I’ve thought about your questions, I think I have a plan in place, I still want to proceed with the divorce, then the attorney will go ahead and take on representation.
Mary Ann Burmester is a family lawyer practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has more than 25 years of experience in family law. To learn more about Mary and her firm, NM Divorce & Custody Law LLC, visit www.nmdivorcecustody.com.