Child Custody issues can be very emotional even under the best of circumstances. In New Mexico divorce cases, the child custody issues are often the most hotly contested issues in the divorce case.
Many Issues Related to Child Custody
Child custody issues can come up not just in divorce but in a variety of cases involving children and parents. In each case, there will be many issues related to child custody beyond just the matter of which parent has the children and when.
The Albuquerque attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. can help to guide you through your child custody case and all the issues that come with it. Our firm assists parents primarily in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. If you have a child custody case in Albuquerque or Rio Rancho, we welcome your call or online contact.
In the meantime, we hope that the information provided here and on the Child Custody Section of our Divorce Law Blog will help you to understand the issues. Often, this will reduce the stress and uncertainty of the process.
Best Interests of the Child
The “best interests” of the child is always the criteria for court decisions related to child custody and time-sharing in New Mexico.
The “best interests of the child” is always the standard that governs court decisions in New Mexico child custody and time-sharing situations.
The best interests of the child are somewhat hard to define with precision. Because of the difficulty in defining it and the fact that reasonable minds many differ, what is or isn’t in the best interests of the child can be very hotly disputed.
Legal v. Physical Custody
There is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child.[pullquote]
When dealing with child custody, you should understand that there is distinction between legal custody and physical custody. In New Mexico, the courts favor joint custody of the children. This is considered to be in the best interests of the child.
The presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child means that the courts will want the children to have significant contacts, physical custody and time-sharing, with both parents absent very good reasons to the contrary.
Legal custody is something quite different than physical custody. Legal custody relates to the decision-making authority of the parents over important decisions related to the child.
There are many such decisions with the big ones being medical care, education, and religion. It is extremely rare that the parents would not share joint legal custody.
[pullquote align="left"]Joint custody does not mean equal time-sharing. In fact, equal time-sharing is the exception rather than the norm.
When thinking of child custody, it is not an all or nothing decision. In fact, in the great majority of cases in New Mexico, one parent will have greater physical custody or time-sharing than the other. Again, the best interests of the child will dictate time-sharing.
In many cases, equal time-sharing is simply not in the best interests of the child. Equal time-sharing can cause enormous stresses to the child. These stresses are generally related to the constant moving back and forth. These moves can affect school, homework, extracurricular activities, social activities and so on.
However, one area where the constant back and forth generally will not work is where the parents simply cannot get along during child custody exchanges. The custody exchange, where the child is passed from one parent to the other, can be incredibly volatile in high conflict custody cases.
This volatility and conflict can cause many problems. The most important for the court’s determination of best interests is the fact that it can do irreparable emotional harm to the child.
Time-Sharing Determines Child Support
The time-sharing between the parents will determine the child support calculation.
Specifically, the amount of time spent with each parent will determine which child support worksheet is used in the calculation of child support.
However, child custody is not contingent upon time-sharing. In other words, a parent can still be required to pay child support even though he or she has no contact with the child. This includes situations where the paying parent is not allowed to see the child for one reason or another.
Comprehensive Parenting Plan is Critical
A thorough parenting plan is essential. This means every issue should be addressed and put in the agreement. Failure to put the terms in writing seems to inevitably lead to unnecessary disputes down the road.
The Parenting Plan is a critically important document in child custody and time-sharing. The Parenting Plan will ideally, and should, set forth every single detail related to custody and time-sharing.
This might seem unnecessary where parents get along and too difficult when they don’t. However, the lack of detail can cause problems even in the best of situations.
Simply put, a lack of detail can lead to rather one-sided interpretations of the intent of the Parenting Plan. This difference of opinion will often end in court hearing. This is so even when the difference of opinion is genuine which in many cases it is not!
An Attorney Can Help
This article has barely scratched the surface on child custody issues in New Mexico. Every case is different and every case will bring its own needs and challenges.
Child custody and time-sharing is extremely important to you. A plan that is truly in the best interests of your child or children is essential to the well-being of your child(ren).
An experienced child custody attorney can help guide your through what can be an extremely confusing, emotional and stressful process.