Custody & Visitation in New Mexico
NM Divorce & Custody Law LLC cares about your family and your children. We know that a divorce or separation can be a complicated situation, but we are here to protect you and your child’s best interests.
Child Visitation or Timesharing
The correct legal term for when the child spends time with each parent is called “periods of responsibility.” Most people still use the term visitation or timesharing. This is the area of greatest disagreement between some parents who are divorcing or breaking up.
The timesharing schedule of a child largely depends on who the primary caretaker of the child was before the divorce or legal separation. The best interests of the child are used for consideration and consistency in the child’s schedule is key. Very young children usually cannot handle well spending significant time away from the parent with whom they are primarily bonded. This does not mean the child does not love both parents; it means the child depends on one parent to meet most of his or her daily needs.
With that said, divorce or legal separation is a major upheaval for the entire family and the child will have to make some adjustments. There is no “default” visitation schedule any more, even though it was common in previous times for the children to spend the majority of their time with the mother and every other weekend with the father, plus sharing holidays.
Child custody means decision-making power, not when the children spend time with each parent. Parents most often receive joint legal custody in New Mexico. Joint custody means that each parent has the right and responsibility to participate in making decision about five key areas of the child’s life such as:
- Residence: If the child lives in New Mexico, then neither parent can move the child out of state or generally more than 50 miles from the current town without the consent of the other parent or a court order approving the relocation.
- Religion:The religious practices the child followed (or did not follow) at the time of the divorce remains the same (i.e., one parent cannot unilaterally change the religious practices of the child even if that parent changes his/her own beliefs or practices).
- Education / Day Care:If possible, the child should remain in the same school system, post-divorce. This includes private schooling, if the parents can still afford this option. If the child is in public school or home school, the child should still receive their education in that environment. A young child should also remain in the same day care or with the same after-school care giver as before the divorce when possible.
- Non-emergency Medical Treatment: Both parents have the right to attend non-emergency doctor or dental appointments with the child and have the right to speak with the medical providers. The child should continue to go the same medical providers post-divorce as long as they are covered by the child’s insurance plan.
The “Status Quo” of the child is identified at the time of the divorce or legal separation for each of the five areas listed above. Neither parent can unilaterally change one of those categories without the agreement of the other parent or a court-order permitting the change. The goal of maintaining the Status Quo is to provide as much familiarity and consistency for the child after the divorce or legal separation as before.
In rare instances one parent is granted “sole custody” which means he or she decides the Status Quo of the child and can make changes to any of the categories listed above without the consent of the other parent. If that parent has been granted true sole custody, they are also allowed to move out of state or even out of the country with the child without the other parent agreeing.
On occasion, the court will award one parent “modified sole custody”, meaning that parent can decide where the child goes to school, what religious practices to follow, what major recreational activities the child will participate in and what non-emergency medical treatment the child will receive. However, they cannot decide to move the child away from the current town or away from the State of New Mexico without the other parent’s consent or a court-order approving the relocation.
Do you need more information about Child Custody in NM?
If you are looking for more information or counsel regarding child custody (sole or joint) or child visitation rights in New Mexico, look no further. NM Divorce & Custody Law LLC knows the New Mexico child custody laws and can help you build your case or mediate on your behalf. We care about you and your children. We will work towards mediation and try to achieve the most positive outcome possible for your children. Contact our office today and we will help you and your family recover.