For most parents, their greatest priority is their children. Divorce doesn’t change that – in fact, it enhances the drive to make the children happy. And that is what makes custody perhaps the most significant issue in a divorce. And within custody there are several factors to consider – here are the top 5 biggest concerns in child custody:
1. “Best Interests of the Child” – This is the standard New Mexico uses to determine child custody. Courts will look at several factors when determining what is in a child’s best interests including:
• the relationship between the child and each parent;
• each parent’s ability to provide for the child;
• how prepared each parent is to take on parenting responsibilities;
• whether either parent has a history of domestic abuse;
• the parents’ relationship with each other – can they compromise and communicate;
• geographical issues – how far the parents live from each other, where the child’s school and activities are located; and
• medical condition and mental health of both parents.
2. Sole Custody – Judges presume that joint custody is best for children; having both parents in one’s life generally contributes to a child’s wellbeing and is always the ideal, in life and law. New Mexico courts only grant a parent sole custody in certain circumstances, such as when the other parent is:
• addicted to drugs/alcohol; or
• violent towards the other parent (past/present).
3. Factors the Court Considers In Determining Custody – Even when the parties agree to joint custody there still issues to sort out in terms of how often each parent gets to see the child, who has primary custody (even if that is merely procedural), when each parent gets to see the child….the list goes on. Holidays, birthdays, vacations – all of that needs to be negotiated.
So, when the court is determining custody it considers several factors including:
• the mental and physical health of the parents and the children;
• the wishes of the parents;
• the wishes of the children;
• the children’s ties to the home, school, and community; and
• the relationship the children have with the parents, siblings, and other significant people in their life.
4. When Custody Is Contested – If the factors involved in determining custody can’t be reasonably negotiated, or one parent wants sole custody, the case will be referred to mediation. This is less formal process of negotiation where a neutral third party experienced in such matters presides over the meetings. The aim is to come to a satisfactory resolution both parties will comply with.
5. Changing the Terms of Custody – People move, lose jobs, get sick and get confronted with a host of other reasons that alter their lives. In turn, that could precipitate a need to modify a custody arrangement. If an official agreement is in place (it was prepared by a court) then either parent can file a formal request to alter the arrangement. However, if the custody arrangement has been informal, the court cannot interfere to adjust it. Both parents have to go to court and initiate the process towards a formal custody agreement. Which, frankly, is the most prudent course of action to take from the beginning of the divorce process.
Call Lightning Legal Group for your custody, support, divorce, or any other family law questions. Our expert attorneys will give you their best advice and guidance. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 505-247-2390.