Can New Mexico Domestic Violence Allegations Affect the Court’s Decision to Award Alimony?
Domestic violence cases are emotional for everyone involved, regardless of whether the allegations are true. While it is true that hundreds of thousands of families are affected by domestic violence each year, some people use this fact to put their partners or family members in difficult situations. The direct consequences of a New Mexico domestic violence conviction can be severe and may include fines, probation, and even jail time.
However, there are also collateral consequences to a domestic violence conviction. Many of these arise in the area of family law. For example, many are concerned about a possible domestic violence effect on alimony.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is a form of support payment made by one spouse to another spouse after divorce. When determining whether alimony is appropriate, the family court will assess several factors, including:
- The age and health of the parties;
- Each party’s ability to support themselves;
- Each party’s financial needs;
- The assets and liabilities of the parties;
- The duration of the marriage; and
- The good-faith efforts of the parties to maintain employment.
While none of these factors specifically mentions domestic violence, judges have broad authority to award alimony. Thus, if a party is able to convince the court that their former spouse was abusive, it may factor into the court’s alimony determination.
The Effect of Domestic Violence on Alimony
While every relationship is different, most people—including judges—see domestic violence as a way to control another person. Those who are in an abusive relationship may not feel free to live their life the way they want to live it, out of fear of abuse. Thus, when allegations of domestic violence come up, family court judges may be more understanding of the alleged victim’s decision not to work, pursue their education, or otherwise contribute to the household.
Additionally, while judges are bound to follow the law, they are also human. To the extent that a judge can exercise their power to right what they perceive as a wrong, they will often do so. Thus, even domestic violence allegations that did not result in a conviction can impact a judge’s view of the parties. For example, judges know that many domestic violence cases do not go to trial because the alleged victim chooses not to pursue the case. However, in the judge’s mind, this does not necessarily mean that the allegations were untrue.
Because judges have wide discretion in determining whether alimony is appropriate, they may use alimony as a way to penalize the abusive party.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in New Mexico?
Under New Mexico law, domestic violence is a term used to describe certain crimes committed against a fellow “household member.”
States vary in how they approach crimes of domestic violence. Unlike many other states, New Mexico has a specific set of statutes outlining domestic violence offenses. These include:
- Assault against a household member;
- Assault of a household member with the intent to commit a violent felony;
- Aggravated assault against a household member;
- Battery against a household member;
- Aggravated battery against a household member;
- Sexual abuse; and
While the most serious domestic violence crimes involve allegations of violence, even non-violent domestic violence charges can impact an alimony determination.
How Allegations of Domestic Violence Can Impact Other Family Law Matters
Domestic violence allegations can carry significant consequences in a divorce apart from the court’s decision to award alimony. For example, the court may consider a party’s domestic violence convictions—and even charges that did not result in a conviction—when making child custody determinations.
When it comes to deciding which parent will receive custody of a minor child, the court will always do what it believes to be in the best interest of the child. To the extent that there are claims of one spouse’s acts of domestic violence—even if they were not directed at the child—the court may consider those acts when deciding which parent will get custody of a child. The court may even deny visitation based on acts of domestic violence
Allegations of domestic violence can also affect the division of a couple’s assets during a divorce. If a couple signed a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, the alleged victim of abuse may claim that they were coerced to sign it out of fear of their abusive partner. This can invalidate the agreement and affect the ultimate property division.
In short, a domestic violence conviction can have a wide-ranging impact throughout the divorce process, and anyone facing allegations of domestic violence should take every step to avoid a conviction. While you may not be able to go back in time and prevent the allegations in the first place, you can take steps to ensure that they have as little impact on your future as possible.
Are You Facing New Mexico Domestic Violence Charges?
If you recently learned that your partner is accusing you of domestic violence and you are concerned about the impact it could have on a future divorce proceeding, give the dedicated lawyers at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices a call. We proudly represent clients facing all types of New Mexico domestic violence offenses, taking the utmost care to ensure the allegations have as little impact on our clients’ lives as possible. Our dedicated team of New Mexico criminal charges defense attorneys has over two decades of experience defending our client’s rights at every stage of the process. To learn more and to schedule a free case evaluation with one of the dedicated attorneys at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, give us a call or reach out to us through our online form.