Understanding child custody rights when going through a divorce
Often the most stressful aspects of divorce for people who have children is custody and visitation. Here are some general principles to keep in mind if you find yourself in this type of situation.
New Mexico law presumes it is in the best interest of a child to have a strong relationship with both parents, if possible. For that reason, the courts will assume the parents should share joint legal custody of the children, absent a strong showing of evidence as to why that should not be the case. Joint legal custody means the parents will have to work together to make big decisions regarding the child such as the child’s medical doctor and where the child will attend school.
It is important for parents to understand their children can have good relationships with both parents even if the parents struggle to have a good relationship with each other. It is critical for both parents to be supportive of their children’s relationship with their other parent. However, if the safety of your child is a concern when they are with the other parent, there are appropriate steps to take. If your co-parent is abusive or struggles with addiction in a way that is endangering your child, it is important you bring this to the attention of the judge or a lawyer who can assist you in navigating a resolution.
Physical custody or timesharing is best determined by the parents themselves if they can agree. The most significant factor for everyone to remember when negotiating this potentially emotional issue is that the best interest of the child should be the number one consideration. If the parents cannot agree, the judge may hold a hearing to make a decision. Most likely the judge will order the parents to go to mediation or appoint Guardian ad litem (lawyer for the child) to make recommendations to the judge about timesharing.
Some factors considered in determining timesharing in the child’s best interest are how involved each parent is in the child’s education and medical care, the ability of each parent to support the relationship with the other parent, and the child’s developmental life stage and existing bond with each parent. There is no exact formula for making this determination so each family’s plan and custody order may be different.
Litigating custody issues can be emotionally and financially draining. It is in everyone’s best interest for the parents to put their own issues aside and focus on creating a plan that puts their children first.