We help clients determine the best way to reach a child custody agreement that is beneficial for the family. When our clients understand all of the options available, it increases the chances of them arranging a child custody agreement that best suits the needs of the children. If the child custody issues became contentious however, we are prepared to fight aggressively on our clients’ behalf.
New Mexico Child Custody Lawyers
A Successful Child Custody Agreement Starts With the Best Interests of The Child
Legal Custody of Children
Legal custody of the children refers to which parent has the right to make major decisions in the lives of their children. New Mexico courts presume that parents will share joint legal custody of their children, meaning they share the same amount of responsibility when it comes to making decisions about the children’s education, healthcare, and other aspects of their lives. Joint custody arrangements require a collaborative effort between the parents. Legal custody, however, is determined on a case-by-case basis, and in some situations, the court may award one parent sole legal custody of the children.
Joint Legal Custody
“Legal custody” refers to the right of parents to make major decisions in the lives of their children.
It has no bearing on how often each parent sees the child. However, most couples who adopt a parenting plan where time with the child is split relatively evenly will also share legal custody of that child.
The preference in New Mexico is for decision-making responsibilities to be shared equally between both parents. This is considered best for the child’s upbringing and wellbeing.
With joint legal custody, decisions about education, healthcare, religion, and recreational activities, as well as other important aspects of the child’s life, will be made by the parents together.
By nature, joint custody arrangements require a collaborative effort between parents. In some situations, this may not be considered practical or in the best interests of the child. Issues such as drug abuse, child abuse, serious criminal issues or domestic violence, leave the judge with no choice but to protect the child from potential negative consequences.
Sole legal custody of the child, though the exception to the rule, may be awarded to one parent in such cases.
Physical Custody and Visitation
Physical custody is completely separate from legal custody and refers to the amount of time the children spend with each parent. These time periods are usually called “periods of responsibility,” and they vary greatly depending upon the circumstances of the parties and the age of the children. If the children are with one parent a majority of the time, that parent is typically referred to as the “primary custodian,” or “primary parent.”
Factors to Consider When Determining Child Custody
The standard by which the court will determine child custody is what is in “the best interests of the child.” In order to minimize the trauma of divorce and an unhealthy custody arrangement, the parties should always remain focused on this standard, taking into account such things as the age of the children, their emotional well-being, and their present and former relationships with each parent.
Child custody is often one of the most hotly disputed issues in divorce cases in New Mexico. It’s best to be prepared for this eventuality. Emotions can obscure judgments and it often helps to have the insight of a child custody attorney to guide your actions.
Remember, New Mexico courts use the “best interests of the child” as standard. However, definitions vary and arguments can be made based upon many factors.
Judgments are made on a case-by-case basis. The arrangements for one family may not work for you. It is impossible to generalize.
Typically, the judge will consider the following factors in child custody cases:
- Which parent has been the primary caregiver?
- Any history of alcohol, drug, or physical abuse?
- The age of the child
- The child’s preferences (if of suitable age)
- The present relationship between the child and each parent
- The structure of the extended family
- The parents’ ability to cooperate
- The work schedules of parents
Once legal custody of the child has been determined, the parents generally need to work out a time-sharing system that allows both parents to spend adequate time with the child.
Again, this arrangement needs to be in the child’s best interests. Similar factors to the above will be considered before the judge rubber stamps approval for the parenting plan.
Your child’s best interests must come first…
Because divorces and relationships vary so considerably, there is no one set of rules that define a child’s best interests.
What is considered best for the development of one child is not necessarily best for another. However, it is assumed that every child needs stability, security, love, and affection for a healthy upbringing and the best chance of positive development.
Anyone arranging custody matters in New Mexico is duty-bound to put these considerations before those of the parents.
Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Personal bias can enter the thoughts of either parent. It is important to find solutions that benefit all parties. That’s where the experience and mediation skills of a child custody lawyer may assist.
Why are our child custody lawyers right for you?
It is important to seek the services of a seasoned child custody attorney if you are experiencing custody issues in the Albuquerque area.
We want to help you avoid the scenario where a divorce turns your children’s lives upside down.
Our attorneys seek solutions that minimize conflict and negative consequences for any of the parties involved, looking to retain the best interests of the children at every step.
Our child-centered approach is sensitive to the needs of most parents to be able to get along after divorce for the sake of the family. We are experienced at helping couples avoid the negative physical and emotional impact of long court battles.
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Need Legal Assistance From a New Mexico Child Custody Attorney?
Call New Mexico Legal Group at 505.843.7303 or get started with a free case evaluation.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are child custody records public?
As a general rule, documents filed in a divorce case are a matter of public record. In other words, unless a case is sealed, anyone can go to the courthouse and get a copy of any pleading filed in any case. While these are not custody “records,” the parties’ custody agreement and parenting plan are public records. Divorce cases are rarely, if ever, sealed by the court.
Can child custody cases be appealed?
Child custody can be appealed in certain instances but more often clients are better suited asking to modify existing orders to suit the changing needs of a family. A parenting plan that is in the best interests of very young children (2 and 3) often needs to be revised as the children get older and circumstances change.
How long do child custody cases take?
The length of a child custody case depends on several different factors. The more parties can agree on the best interests of the children, the faster cases conclude. A contentious custody case tends to take longer as often parties must wait on expert reports and the court’s calendar to fit the case in.
What is the legal standard the court uses to make a custody award?
The courts in New Mexico assume joint custody is the “best interests of the child” standard in determining custody arrangements for divorcing parties.
Should I talk to my child about who she/he wants to live with?
Our firm believes that a child should never be put in the position of choosing one parent over the other. This can have lasting, negative effects on children. Instead, we believe that working with the parents, staying focused on the best interests of the children, and sometimes using third-party neutrals, is a far better way to resolve custody disputes.
What is a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator?
A parental responsibilities evaluation (PRE) is an evaluation conducted by an expert, which can involve psychological testing of the parties, third party collateral interviews, child-parent observations, interviews with the parties, and other techniques that allow the expert to make a custody recommendation to the court. These types of evaluations are not the norm, and are typically only used when the parties cannot make any real progress toward resolving their custody issues and there are significant issues at play, such as serious mental illness and/or substance abuse. A less invasive and less expensive alternative is using a Child and Family Investigator to examine the case and make a recommendation to the court.
2701 Arizona Street NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110
Rio Rancho Office
4351 Jager Dr., NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87102
Las Cruces Office
300 S Water St.
Las Cruces, NM 88001