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What rights do grandparents in New Mexico possess?

The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is very special, so anything that severs this bond may be distressing. In cases like this, grandparents may want to seek visitation rights.

New Mexico has one of the most liberal grandparents' rights laws in this country. They may receive visitation rights during or after a court hearing on paternity, legal separation or marriage dissolution. Courts can overrule the parents' wishes, even though they receive special consideration.

Visitation cannot interfere with the child's education or with visitation or time-sharing arrangements that were set up earlier. Grandparent rights may be sought if at least one of the grandchildren's parents died. Grandparents may ask for visitation rights for a grandchild who once lived with them for a specific time.

New Mexico law requires courts to review several considerations. These include the best interest of the child, the grandparent's earlier relations with the grandchild, the grandparent's relationship with each of the child's parents and if the grandparent was a full-time caretaker for a substantial time. Courts will also consider whether the grandparent was convicted for abuses involving neglect or physical or emotional harm.

State court rulings contain other considerations. These include emotional ties between the grandparent and the child, the nature and strength of their relationship and the effect that visitation may have on the development of the child. Courts may also review the parent's opinions, the grandparent's willingness to foster the relationship between the parent and their child and the physical, psychological, social and emotional necessities of the child.

Court-ordered mediation often takes place at the beginning of a grandparent visitation dispute. When a parent changes the child's residence after visitation is awarded, the parent must notify the grandparent, give them their current contact information and allow the grandparent to communicate with the child. If a grandparent does not receive visitation, the court may still order regular communication between the grandparent and the child.

Unlike most other states, grandparents may have visitation rights following adoption if one of the parents keeps their rights. Grandparents may also seek visitation if the person adopting the child is a stepparent, a relative, a person designated in a deceased parent's will or a sponsor in the child's baptism or confirmation ceremony.

An attorney may assist grandparents with obtaining and enforcing their visitation rights. Legal representation can help ensure that a court order promotes the grandchild's well-being.

Source: The Spruce, "New Mexico grandparents' rights," Susan Adcox, Feb. 26, 2017

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