What Does Joint Custody Mean in a New Mexico Divorce Proceeding?

Have you ever wondered what the term “joint custody” means? In New Mexico, there is an initial legal presumption that the best interests of a child are served by awarding joint custody to both parents. But once a court decides to award joint custody, what does that mean for the child and the parents?

In New Mexico, the term “joint custody” has a very specific meaning that is defined by law. The short legal definition is that it “means an order of the court awarding custody of a child to two parents.”

The statute also sets forth a longer definition of the term describing the rights and responsibilities of each parent under a joint custody order:

  • Both parents “have significant, well-defined periods of responsibility for the child.”
  • When a parent is responsible for the child, he or she must meet all the child’s needs, including “financial, physical, emotional and developmental needs.”
  • Major decisions must be agreed to by both parents. If the parents cannot agree, specific rules in the law apply.
  • A parent who wants to move must give the other parent at least 30 days’ advance notice in writing, including the anticipated date and destination of the move.
  • Both parents have access to school, medical, and dental records.
  • Either parent “has authority to make emergency medical decisions.”
  • Both parents have the right to know about the child’s public activities and to attend them.

The law also tells us what the term does not mean. It “does not imply an equal division of the child’s time between the parents or an equal division of financial responsibility for the child.” In other words, just because the parents receive joint custody does not mean they split the child’s time—or the financial responsibility for the child—equally.

An experienced New Mexico family lawyer can help you understand the laws that apply to child custody and obtain the result that is best for you and your children. If you have questions about child custody in New Mexico, contact the Lightning Legal Group. We know that kids come first, and we’ll help you find your way. Contact us today at (505) 247-2390 for experienced legal advice.


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