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Child Custody Laws in New Mexico

Child Custody Laws in New Mexico



New Mexico’s child custody laws have evolved over the past decade to prioritize the well-being of children and provide fair treatment to parents involved in custody disputes. The following key updates from 2013 to 2023 highlight New Mexico’s dedication to adapting its child custody regulations:

2014 – Child’s Best Interests:

   – New Mexico establishes the best interests of the child as the guiding principle in custody determinations.

2015 – Joint Custody Preference:

   – Emphasis on joint custody arrangements to promote ongoing involvement of both parents.

2016 – Mediation Promotion:

   – Introduction of mediation as a means of resolving custody disputes outside of court.

2017 – Grandparent Visitation Rights:

   – Enhancement of grandparent visitation rights when it’s in the child’s best interests.

2018 – Domestic Violence Consideration:

   – New Mexico strengthens protections for children by considering domestic violence history in custody decisions.

2019 – Child’s Wishes Acknowledged:

   – Courts start recognizing the child’s preferences as one of the factors in custody determinations.

2020 – Parenting Plans Emphasis:

   – Requirement for parenting plans outlining custody arrangements, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.

2021 – Relocation Guidelines:

   – Establishment of guidelines to address parental relocations and their impact on existing custody arrangements.

2022 – Mental Health Evaluation:

   – Introduction of mental health assessments when relevant to parental fitness and child well-being.

2023 – Technology Use in Co-Parenting:

   – New Mexico addresses the role of technology in co-parenting and its potential influence on children.

These updates underscore New Mexico’s commitment to creating a supportive and nurturing environment for children while ensuring fairness for parents involved in custody matters.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in New Mexico

One of the hardest parts of any divorce is deciding child custody.  If you are a New Mexico parent who is currently engaged in a custody dispute, you may want to know about the child custody laws in New Mexico that will dictate how your custody case proceeds.  This guide will give you a basic overview of the laws and terms that govern New Mexico’s courts when they make a determination about child custody.  After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of the child custody laws in New Mexico and be able to conduct further research on your own.

Parenting Plans and Mediation

It can be extremely emotionally difficult for a child to go through the animosity and hostility of a custody hearing.  To reduce the emotional effects on their children, and to save money on court costs, many parents prefer to come to an agreement about how to divide their parenting responsibilities.  Child custody laws in New Mexico allow you to draft a parenting plan that specifies your agreement so that the court can approve it.  Generally, courts will approve any parenting plan that appears to be agreed to by both parents and will be in the best interest of a child.

Parents who cannot come to an agreement on their own may be ordered into mediation by the court.  Child custody laws in New Mexico allow mediation as an alternative to a child custody hearing.  This inexpensive, informal option allows parents to meet with a third-party, neutral mediator and work out their disagreements constructively.  If mediation is successful in generating an agreement about all parenting issues, the mediator will draft the parenting plan so that a judge can sign off on it and make it final.

Legal Custody

“Custody” actually refers to two separate legal concepts that are very different from one another.  Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make major choices for his or her child, including decisions about school, healthcare, and religion.

Child custody laws in New Mexico lead to judges commonly awarding joint legal custody to parents.  Joint legal custody involves both parents working together to make major decisions for their child  Often, but not always, this will involve each parent having physical custody of the child at least 35% of the time.  Child custody laws in New Mexico also allow judges to award sole legal custody to one parent if this is in the best interest of the child.  If sole legal custody is awarded, the non-custodial parent is not entitled to be part of the decisionmaking process for these major choices.

Physical Custody

The second kind of custody, physical custody, refers to where a child is living.  This is often the kind of custody parents fight over most.  Child custody laws in New Mexico allow judges to divide physical custody in whatever way seems best for the child.  Some parents find that a 50/50 split or close to it will offer their child the best environment, but other times, primary physical custody will be awarded to one parent, or sole custody with only small amounts of visitation for the non-custodial parent.