Many of the courts throughout the State of New Mexico, including the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque and the Thirteenth Judicial District Court in Sandoval County, have Court Clinic Services.
Court Clinic‘s purpose is to help parties resolve issues of child custody, time-sharing and visitation. Court clinic does not get involved in other issues related to the divorce. In fact, Court Clinic does not even have authority to address child support.
Most cases involving child custody and time-sharing disputes will be referred to Court Clinic for a custody evaluation. The parties may choose to hire a private child custody expert (706 Expert) for purposes of a private child custody evaluation. However, these private child custody evaluation experts are extremely expensive. As a result, most cases end up in Court Clinic which provides its services on a sliding fee scale based upon the income of the parties.
Once the case is referred to Court Clinic, the case will be assigned to one of the many counselors and psychologists working in the Court Clinic. In a particularly complex case, there may be more than one Court Clinician. The Court clinician will conduct a thorough investigation of the parties, the children, third parties involved in the raising of the children including grandparents, fiancÃ©s, boyfriend/girlfriends, and even roommates living in the home.
The investigation can be quite invasive. The parties and the children, if they are old enough to participate, will undergo psychological evaluations. This process may include extensive psychological testing and interviews. In cases where third parties are involved in the upbringing of the children, those parties will be tested as well.
The investigation can take months, sometimes over a year. The time required to conduct the investigation is related to the complexity of the case as well as the huge caseload of the Court Clinicians. Once the Court Clinic has concluded its investigation, it will issue Child Custody Recommendations to the Judge. These recommendations are not binding on the judge but it is very rare that the judge does not follow the recommendations of Court Clinic.
The implications are clear. You should if at all possible work out custody and visitation with the other parent. If you cannot, then you are turning your life and the lives of your children over to a complete stranger. Though the Court Clinic process is long and relatively thorough, it remains replete with errors and mistakes due to incomplete information. Indeed, how could a complete stranger ever really know everything there is to know about you, the other parent, and your children necessary to make a perfect recommendation that is in the best interests of your children?
Psychological Testing During A Custody Evaluation
Factors in New Mexico Joint Child Custody Decisions
The Best Interests of the Child is the Goal of New Mexico Courts in Child Custody Matters
Collins & Collins, P.C.