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Do I Lose Custody If I Miss Too Many Visitations?

Do I Lose Custody If I Miss Too Many Visitations?

When couples get divorced in New Mexico, parenting and child custody arrangements generally include visitations (periods of responsibility) for each parent.

When couples get divorced in New Mexico, parenting and child custody arrangements generally include visitations (periods of responsibility) for each parent.

It is important to follow these court-ordered or court-approved schedules as closely as possible because if you miss visitations or time-share with your child, there could be repercussions for the time you spend with your child.

But could you lose custody of your child?

Here’s what you need to know about parenting plans and visitation rights in New Mexico…

What is a parenting plan in New Mexico?

When married couples with children separate and divorce, a parenting plan is required or a judge will order how a child will be cared for and what each parent’s rights and responsibilities are.

In the majority of cases, couples work out a parenting plan that is approved by the New Mexico family court.

A parenting plan is a contract signed by both parents and legally enforceable. It must clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of each parent in raising a child. Details such as custody, child support and visitation rights for the non-custodial parent must be in line with the child’s best interests.  Most time-share is called a “period of responsibility” because that’s what it is; a chance for you to have a period of responsibility with your child where you are responsibility for all things concerning that child during that period.

Common visitation right violations in New Mexico

Even if the rights and responsibilities of each parent are detailed in a parenting plan, the guidelines may or may not be followed by both parents.

Typically, the visitation issues that affect divorced couples in New Mexico are:

Being continually late for drop-offs and pick-ups

If one parent is continually late for picking up or dropping off a child, this may upset the child and annoy the other parent but it does not usually constitute grounds for modifying custody or parenting arrangements on its own.

Cancelling your period of responsibility without notice

The assigned periods of responsibility are expected to be fulfilled by the court.   This is in the best interests of your child; that child gets very disappointed if you miss your assigned time.  A single miss will not constitute a serious breach but if it happens regularly, it will not be viewed favorably by the court.  The other parent does not have to agree for “make-up” time if you miss a period of responsibility with your child.

If the court finds that the parent acted in bad faith by missing visitations, action may be taken and parenting time in the future may be affected.

“Making up time” for missed visits

When assessing the impact of parental actions such as lateness and missed visitations, the New Mexico courts put the best interests of the child first – as in any decision regarding custody and parenting.

The court will also consider the frequency and reasons for the missed visitations. We are all forced to miss appointments at some point due to unexpected events and life getting in the way – but parents are meant to prioritize their children.

If a parent misses visitations but makes up the time with the child, this may be acceptable to the court, but the other parent is usually not required to allow you “make-up” time.  Each parent will be expected to exercise some flexibility in the best interests of the child if “make-up time” is requested by the other parent.

It is generally considered best for parents to work on a solution together for the child rather than seeking court intervention. If a change of schedule for visitations is required, discuss this with a child custody attorney as you may need to apply to the court.

Possible court actions for missed periods of responsibility

Missed periods of responsibility and failure to follow the schedule in the parenting plan may result in court action.

How this will be handled depends on the number of missed periods, the reasons for the misses, whether notice was given, the attitude of the parent who has violated the order, and the effect of this on the child.

Depending on what the judge deems to be in the best interests of the child, the following action may be taken:

  • The offending parent may be ordered to attend parenting classes (at his/her own cost)
  • The parent may be ordered to attend family counseling (at his/her own cost)
  • The imposition of a fee to the custodial parent in the case of lateness or absence from scheduled visits
  • Both parents may be ordered to attend mediation (at the cost of the offending parent)

In extreme cases, it may be necessary to change the custody agreement, imposing limitations on the offending parent’s access to the child.

While it is generally considered in the best interests of a child to have regularly scheduled visits with the non-custodial parent, this may be reassessed if missed visitations are a regular occurrence with no good reason provided. Future parenting time could be severely limited in the most serious cases.

If a parent has been absent from a child’s life for a considerable amount of time and wishes to become involved again, “therapeutic intervention” may be ordered by the court.

What can you do if the other parent misses their periods of responsibility?

Having been through divorce proceedings, the last thing you probably need is to return to court over the other parent’s performance concerning visitation.

However,  you must protect yourself if the other parent is not following the parenting schedule.

It is important to keep a detailed record of the visitation misses or lateness and support it with documentation if possible.

Your child’s school or child care center should have a copy of the court order and the phone number of both parents. If the child is picked up late by the other parent, the school should call.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on resolving the issue of lateness or missed visitations, a modification of the schedule with court action may be required. Remember, this may affect the amount of child support payable or received.

Do you need legal assistance with parenting or custody issues?

Failing to comply with parenting plans and visitation rights in New Mexico will lead to consequences but losing custody can be a harsh price to pay for a parent.

For legal assistance and support, speak to a child custody lawyer at New Mexico Legal Group at 505.843.7303 to arrange a free case evaluation.