Child Custody Decisions in New Mexico

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Does New Mexico Law Encourage in Child Custody Disputes?

A child custody dispute may occur when the parents of a child or children no longer want to raise the child or children under the same roof. This can happen when parents are filing for divorce, separation, or do not wish to live together as a couple for the foreseeable future.

Although some of the general concepts and procedures are the same, most states have their own laws that govern the overall process of a child custody dispute in a particular state, such as New Mexico.

According to the New Mexico family law statutes, parents in New Mexico are encouraged to resolve child custody arrangements amongst themselves and without the intervention of a family law court. If the parents cannot reach an agreement amongst themselves, only then will a judge step in to help them make custody decisions about their child or children.

Most courts do this by examining different factors and evaluating them with the best interest of the child’s standard in mind.

In most cases, the court will attempt to arrange child custody so that both parents share joint custody over the child or children. However, there are certain situations that may warrant only giving one of the parents sole custody over the child or children. This notion applies across the board, not just in the state of New Mexico.

Again, there may be different legal and procedural rules regarding child custody depending on your state. Thus, if you are a resident of New Mexico and are experiencing issues involving child custody, then it may be in your best interest to contact a New Mexico child custody lawyer in your area for further legal advice on the matter.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a type of agreement formed between a child or children’s parents that outlines the obligations and responsibilities of each parent in the event of a divorce, separation, or some other legal matter that leads to a child custody issue.

This agreement is also sometimes referred to as a parental plan, a custody agreement, a co-parenting agreement, or in some instances, a child visitation schedule (though this last one is usually only used for timing purposes).

As discussed above, parents who live in the state of New Mexico must have already created a parenting plan before the agreement can be finalized and approved by a court. If the parents cannot reach an agreement on child custody arrangements, the family law court will typically order the parents to attend family mediation to resolve the issue at hand.

If mediation also proves to be unsuccessful, then each parent must submit their own parenting plan for the court to review. Some New Mexico child visitation guidelines that the court may consider in reviewing a parenting plan or child custody arrangement include the following:

  • The desires of each of the parents and child or children in regard to custodial arrangements (e.g., does the child prefer to stay with one parent over the other);
  • Whether the child is well-adjusted to their current home, school, and local community;
  • The mental well-being and physical health of each of the parents; and/or
  • The relationship between the child, the parents, and any other family members living within the household (e.g., siblings, grandparents, etc.).

Some other factors that may affect child custody arrangements in New Mexico may include how the law views each of the parent’s rights. For example, some mothers’ rights in New Mexico used to increase a mother’s ability to attain full physical custody over their children. This was known as the “Tender Years Doctrine.” This doctrine has ultimately been rejected by New Mexico courts, which now rely exclusively on the child’s best interests standard.

For example, instead of giving a mother preferential treatment in court under the Tender Years Doctrine, courts will now look at factors like which parent is considered the primary caregiver, how the child bonds with each parent, which parent can provide the most stable home environment, and so on.

What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live with in New Mexico?

In general, a child will be able to provide an opinion on which parent they prefer to live with at any age. However, a child’s response to this question will not be given serious weight by a court in New Mexico until the child reaches 14 years of age or older. In contrast, for children who are younger than 14 years of age in New Mexico, the court will apply the child’s best interest standards.

It should be noted that if a judge does decide to take a child’s preference into consideration, the child will have to testify in the judge’s private chambers, regardless of their age. Aside from the child, the only other people that will be permitted into the private chamber meeting are the judge and a court reporter.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

As previously mentioned, courts will generally apply the child’s best interests standard when assigning child custody. In particular, New Mexico courts tend to favor the idea of both parents sharing joint custody of their children. If this is not possible, or if the parents are struggling to come to an agreement, then New Mexico courts will consider the following factors in determining child custody:

  • The preferences of the child (if they are 14 years of age or older);
  • The parents’ willingness and ability to cooperate long enough to raise the child (e.g., are the parents capable of sharing joint custody responsibilities?);
  • Whether there is evidence against either parent of child and/or spousal abuse;
  • The bond and relationships between the child, the parents, and other family members in the household;
  • The financial standing of both parents and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and safe home environment;
  • The distance between the child’s parents’ separate residences;
  • Which parent would provide the best benefits for helping the child to grow (if not both);
  • Whether joint custody would be feasible given the parents’ living arrangements and relationship with one another; and/or
  • Whether moving the child would disrupt their current living conditions, including school, after-school activities, medical needs, local community support, and so forth.

In some cases, a court may also request that a professional expert, such as a psychologist or some other professional who has training in this field, conduct a custody evaluation before it assigns child custody. In other cases, a child may need a guardian ad litem to advocate on their behalf and in their best interests for which parent should be assigned child custody.

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the court has made a decision in assigning child custody and approving the parents’ parenting plan, the parents will be bound by the decision. Moving forward, if either parent violates the court’s final child custody order, then they can be punished accordingly. Such punishments may involve being held in contempt of court, having to pay fines, losing joint custody, and so forth.

In the event that the parents want to modify or change the terms of the child custody agreement, they will first need to get permission from the court that issued the original child custody decision. If the court finds that the changes would be in the best interests of the child, then they will most likely approve and issue a modified custody order.

Should I Contact a New Mexico Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

In general, resolving child custody issues not only requires extensive knowledge of state child custody laws and procedures, but can also be emotionally taxing on your entire household. Therefore, if you are experiencing problems involving child custody issues or need help with creating a child custody plan, then it is strongly encouraged that you speak with a New Mexico child custody lawyer for further assistance.

An experienced child custody lawyer in your area will already be familiar with the proper laws and procedures that apply to your child custody issue. Your lawyer will be able to provide specific legal services, such as drafting child custody agreements, negotiating for child custody or support on your behalf, and providing representation during family law court proceedings.

Your lawyer can also help you file the paperwork to modify a child custody order in court. In addition, your lawyer will be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have about a particular child custody issue as well as can assist you in securing the best possible parenting arrangements for your child.


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer