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How does New Mexico child custody work?

New Mexico imposes child custody duties upon couples when they end their marriage or their relationships. These duties include meals, school attendance, medical care and recreational activities.

Courts rule on divorce petitions filed by spouses during divorce. Judges normally refer married parents to mediation to negotiate a plan for time sharing.

In reaching decisions, courts consider the best interests of the child, which includes the parents' health, the children's adjustment to home and school and the wishes of the children and parents.

New Mexico courts usually possess power over custody when the children have lived in this state for at least six months. Where children did not live in any one state for this period, courts from several states may have to decide which state has authority to make well-informed rulings.

Courts award sole or joint custody. Sole custody allows one parent to make all major decisions for the children, such as their residence, school, religion health care and recreational activities. Sole custody is awarded when the other parent is away or missing, incarcerated, is abusing alcohol or illegal drugs or displayed violence to the other parent which jeopardizes their ability make joint decisions about child care.

Joint custody, however, is awarded in most cases. Both parents share decision-making over these matters.

Joint custody does not necessarily result in each parent sharing equal time with the children or sharing equal financial support. It does not eliminate child support responsibilities.

Courts will not force parents to comply with a custody and visitation order if they are cooperating with sharing time with their children. Courts, however, will not enforce informal arrangements if there is a dispute. Courts will only enforce the written order unless there is a written agreement which proves they had a different arrangement.

Parents can request that a court adopt their informal arrangement as the formal order. Additionally, parents can ask the court to change the custody arrangement if there is a substantial change in circumstances since the first order. These might include a parent moving away, having drug addiction or entering a relationship with someone who is abusive to the children.

An experienced attorney can assist a parent with seeking and enforcing a child custody and visitation order. They can help assure that these orders meet the parent's and child's needs.

Source: LawHelp New Mexico, "Child custody," accessed on Aug. 8, 2017

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