Child Support can often turn into one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. In New Mexico, child support is computed according to the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines and the mandatory Child Support Worksheets upon which they are based.
Under the New Mexico Guidelines, parents are responsible for certain expenses like work-related child and healthcare, other expenses like private schools and extracurricular activities are not always factored into child support figures and are paid in addition to the Guideline support.
The Guidelines and the Worksheets are Mandatory
Under New Mexico law, Child Support Worksheets are mandatory and generally required for a judge to sign a Final Decree in a divorce or a Parenting Plan. The amount of support due is calculated based on the parents’ custody arrangement, combined gross income, and certain monthly expenses for the children.
The guidelines and support calculator are available in the family law section of the New Mexico Court website at NMCourts.gov. It it is good for both parties to get equated with the worksheets so that realistic expectations are set from the outset.
Time-Sharing Will Determine Which Worksheet to Use
The custodial arrangement, or amount of time a child spends with each parent, determines which Child Support Worksheet the parents must use to calculate a child support figure. Worksheet A should be used when one parent has custody of the child for less than 35% of the time. Worksheet B should be used when parents have custody of children for closer to 50% of the time.
Calculation of Gross Income
The New Mexico Child Support Guidelines define “gross monthly income,” as income from any source. This can be in the form of salaries, wages, tips, bonuses, commissions, annuities, pensions, disability benefits, severance pay, interest, dividends, etc. Gross income does not include child support received by a parent to support other children.
Alimony and child support for prior children that is actually paid in compliance with a court order may also be subtracted from gross income depending on when the other child support orders were entered. Similarly, TANF, food stamps, and means tested social security income are not included in gross income.
Basic Child Worksheets include only a few of the expenses associated with raising children, mainly basic expenses related to dental and healthcare insurance premiums and work-related childcare.
The Child Support Worksheets can include extraordinary medical, dental, or counseling expenses not covered by insurance, as well as travel and communication expenses if the parents live at a distance from each other and extraordinary educational expenses.
Most parents will agree that the basic expenses allowed for in the Child Support Worksheets ignore a number of other significant costs related to children. Many children attend private schools or have high-priced extracurricular activities like private tutoring, lessons, or sports-related activities.
Other important expenses are excluded as well such as home computers and internet for school, clothing, transportation to name just a few. The guidelines do not allow inclusion of other less critical items such as mobile phones, car payments, recreational expenses,recreational or educational travel and so on.
Any non-guideline expenses will be viewed very critically by the judge. Though you may request them, do not be surprised if they are denied.
Statutory Guidelines Dictate Child Support – It is Not a Point of Negotiation
Using the statutory formula and income schedule provided in the Worksheets, a child support figure is computed. As stated above, the payment is mandatory. It is not open to negotiation unless you want to pay more than you are legally obligated to pay. You will not be allowed to pay less.
In fact, deviation from the figure established by the Child Support Worksheets is rare and must be supported by good cause, as defined in the statute. The Guidelines state that a deviation from the child support figure is only justified in cases of extreme hardship, typically when one parent is forced to pay the other parent over 40% of their gross income, or some other compelling reason. These deviations will typically require a hearing with the judge.