Undoubtedly, one of the most serious aspects of any divorce or paternity case is how the Divorce Court (or the parties themselves), will ultimately determine the issue of child custody and visitation. While the path of a child custody case in the Albuquerque courts is fairly predictable, clients get in trouble when they lose sight of the overall importance of custody agreements, especially when their divorce lawyers fail to keep them focused on the impact these decisions will have on the children.
#1 – Hiring an Overly Aggressive Divorce Lawyer
It is not uncommon for clients to call our Albuquerque or Rio Rancho offices asking to hire the most aggressive lawyer we have; and it is a common belief that the more aggressive your lawyer behaves (up to pit bull levels!), the better the ultimate result will be in your divorce and custody case. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Clients should be aware that the leading research concerning divorce and custody cases shows that a majority of children suffer some level of psychological trauma from the divorce process. However, the LESS animosity that exists in a divorce case, the LESS harm the children will likely suffer.
A divorce lawyer known for his or her aggressive approach to child custody cases, will almost always start the case in a way that will make working cooperatively with your spouse impossible. This often leads to sky-high attorney’s fees, lengthy delays, and the potential destruction of any hope to effectively co-parent the children after the divorce.
#2 – Failing to Understand the “Best Interests of the Child” Legal Standard for Child Custody
The law in New Mexico presumes that parents will share joint custody of children absent some extraordinary circumstances, and the legal standard that the Court will apply is what is in “the best interests of the child.” All negotiations surrounding custody should necessarily focus on this one factor. Judges here believe (rightly so) that children benefit (and thrive) when they have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Clients who get caught up in other issues – especially the emotional hurt that a divorce often brings – do a disservice to their children when dealing with the issues of child custody and visitation schedules.
#3 – Involving the Children in the Custody Case
Children should NEVER be involved in what is going on in a custody case. There is an enormous misconception that children should, and often do, speak to the judge in chambers about where they want to live. While some judges will allow this, it is exceedingly rare, and the results can be devastating on a child. Children who feel that are being asked to choose between parents, regardless of how small the choice, are often the children who suffer the most post-divorce. Parenting plans, forms of custody, and visitation schedules should be determined by the parents only.