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Understanding the child custody determination process

When children are involved in the divorce process, parents are required to make difficult decisions. One of the hardest realities a parent might have to face is losing time with his or her child. Even when parents are able to reach a fair and agreeable joint custody arrangement, it can be a very emotional experience for everyone involved. Additionally, it can be difficult to acclimate to the new parenting plan because a parent who is used to being around his or her child full-time might only have their child 50 percent of the time, or even less.

To help parents with the child custody determination process, it is important to understand the standards that a court will use when determining child custody orders. This could help prepare parents for the possible outcomes. Section 40-4-9 of the New Mexico statutes outlines these standards.

If the child or children are under the age of 14-years-old, the court will determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child. Relevant factors for this test include considering the wishes of both parents when it comes to custody, the parent-child relationships, the child's ability to adjust to his or her home, school and community, the mental and physical health of everyone involved and the wishes of the child.

When the child or children involved are 14-years-old or older, the court will consider the desires and wishes of the child before making a custody determination. This does not mean that the factors above will not be considered; however, more weight will be given to the wishes and desires of the child regarding whom he or she wishes to live with.

Child custody is usually a difficult issue to go through, even when parents can reach an agreeable and timely resolution. No matter what type of parenting plan divorcing parents are seeking, it is important to understand the process and how courts will determine custody. Those unsure of the options available to them should seek legal guidance. This could help ensure that everyone involved is making informed decisions regarding the matter.

Source: New Mexico Compilation Commission, "40-4-9. Standards for the determination of child custody," accessed Oct. 4, 2015

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