Beals v. Ares – Case Brief Summary (New Mexico)

In Beals v. Ares, 25 N.M. 459, 185 P. 780 (1919), the Court considered whether a wife "forfeited her interest in the community property by the commission of adultery." Id. at 494, 185 P. at 791.

The Court first stated that under the civil laws of Spain and Mexico, a wife did forfeit her "matrimonial gains" when she committed adultery. Id. at 478, 185 P. at 785.

The Court then noted that when New Mexico passed a statute adopting the common law, the civil law was completely supplanted and the common law became "the rule of decision." Id. at 460, 185 P. at 781 (Syllabus by the Court).

After examining the common law involving a wife's property rights, the Court stated as follows:

"There being no applicable provisions of the common law, or any statute of this state barring the wife of her interest in the community property by reason of the commission of adultery, we conclude that her rights and interests in the community property are not affected by any wrongs which she may have committed, however grievous they may have been. As the legislature has not seen fit to deprive her of the interest which it conferred upon her, in the property earned by the parties to the union, because she may have violated her marital vows, the courts can not legislate upon the subject and by judicial fiat correct that which many think is a serious defect in our laws. The remedy is with the legislature and not the courts." Id. at 494, 185 P. at 791.