New Mexico law provides that both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their minor children. Therefore, in New Mexico, child support is mandatory and is determined by the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines and New Mexico Child Support Worksheets.
Child Support Worksheets are Required
The law requires that parents use the Child Support Worksheets to calculate the amount of child support that must be paid, except in very rare cases. In fact, a judge will generally not sign the final divorce decree or parenting plan if a Child Support Worksheet is not attached or if the parents have deviated from the Child Support Guidelines without a showing of good cause.
Child Support is Based Upon Several Mandatory Factors
Child Support is calculated based on the combined gross income of both parents, after the parents are given credit for work related daycare expenses and the cost of providing health insurance for the children.
The amount of time a child spends with each parent, often referred to as time-sharing, determines which Child Support Worksheet the parents must use to calculate a child support amount. Worksheet A is used to calculate the amount of child support when the children live with one parent most of the time and have limited visitation with the other parent. Worksheet B is used when the children live with both parents for substantial periods of time.
Deviations on Expense Items in Rare Circumstances
Child support is intended to ensure that each parent is able to maintain a comparable standard of living for the children. However, it is expensive to raise children and many parents feel that financial strain, even with child support that conforms with the Child Support Guidelines.
Under the very limited circumstances, other expenses beyond work-related child care and medical insurance premiums may be included in the Child Support Worksheet or the parties may be ordered to pay those costs in addition to the basic support from the Child Support Worksheet.
Extraordinary Worksheet Expenses
The worksheet seems simple enough. However, the items that go in can be fiercely contested. For instance, the calculation of gross income can be very challenging particularly in cases involving self-employment.
An experienced family attorney will know what can and must be included and how to calculate each. An attorney can also help to ensure that extraordinary expenses for the children are paid by both parents either within the Child Support Worksheet or as part of a separate order.
The type and amount of extraordinary expenses allowed by the Court will vary depending on the facts of each case, but some examples may include extraordinary medical, dental or counseling expenses not covered by your insurance, travel and communication expenses if the parents live a long distance from each other, education expenses such as private school tuition and school supplies, and expenses necessary for the children to participate in extracurricular activities and recreational activities.
Working with a family law attorney can help both parents ensure that they are meeting their responsibility to support their children. A comprehensive child support order should address payment of all of the children’s financial needs so that parents stop arguing about financial issues and focus on the sufficiently challenging task of actually raising their children.