The basic terms of an order of protection from domestic abuse under the New Mexico Family Violence Protection Act are pretty straightforward. Essentially, the alleged domestic violence offender is prohibited from any contact with the alleged victim for a period of 6 months, which can be extended for good cause. However, there are often numerous other terms of the order that more seriously affect the rights of the alleged domestic violence offender.
First, the alleged domestic violence offender is ordered to immediately vacate the home. This alone can cause enormous emotional and financial hardship on the alleged offender. In cases where false allegations are made, this provision is often the basis. Unfortunately, there are some individuals and their lawyers that view this as a valid strategy in the divorce process. The repercussions for both parties can be severe.
The next major issues are child custody and child support. If the domestic violence hearing officer finds that there has been an act of domestic violence as defined under the Family Violence Protection Act, the court must then address temporary child custody and support. Due to the limited information that the hearing officer has at one of these hearings, an on-call clinician from Family Court Clinic will often be called in to assist the court with this decision. The on-call clinician will interview the parties, witnesses, and sometimes the children for its evaluation which is then presented to the court. The recommendations of the court clinic are followed in the great majority of cases.
Once child custody and time-sharing is established, the court may require the domestic violence offender to attend anger management, parenting classes and other counseling as a condition of time-sharing with the children. Time-sharing can be suspended completely in the event that these conditions are not met. The hearing officer may also order supervised time-sharing which means that the domestic violence offender is allowed contact with the children only in a supervised setting. Typically, the supervised time-sharing occurs at a facility with professionals trained for these purposes. On occasion, the court will allow supervision by family members or other third parties.
Each of the provisions addressed above are both temporary and appealable to district court through the filing of objections. Objections must be filed within 10 days of the ruling in order to get a district court hearing. Objections to the findings of the domestic violence hearing officers will be addressed separately as this is a very important, but infrequently exercised right.