When your marriage ended, the divorce agreement included specific arrangements for child custody and visitation. Now, circumstances have changed, and you believe amending the custody or visitation agreement would be in the best interests of your child.
According to New Mexico law, a child custody and visitation agreement can be modified if there's a "material and substantial change" that affects the children. What constitutes a material and substantial change depends on the unique circumstances of you, the children, and the other parent.
Here are some factors to consider:
- The reason for the change. For example, an occasional late or missed visit usually isn't a reason to amend the existing agreement. However, if they become routine, then custody and visitation arrangements should be reviewed and possibly modified.
- Whether the change is temporary or long term. If you're traveling for work on a specific project or during a certain season, then you may not need to make a change to your existing agreement, as long as your child's other parent has full knowledge of the temporary timeline and expectations.
- The relationship with your child’s other parent. If the two of you have a good working relationship and the custody and visitation change is temporary, you may not need to spend the time and money to go through the court system to formalize everything.
Some examples of material and substantial changes that often require modifications to a custody and visitation agreement include:
- Drug or alcohol abuse, or physical and sexual abuse. If a parent makes poor life choices, or one parent has reason to believe a child is unsafe with the other parent, there may be immediate and necessary changes to the custody and visitation agreement.
- Relocation. If a parent relocates closer to or farther away from the child, the custody and visitation agreement probably needs modification.
- Work obligations. If one parent’s work hours significantly increase or decrease, then the amount of time that parent can spend with the child may need to be adjusted accordingly.
- The child’s own opinions. As children get older, they frequently have different opinions about their arrangements. These include which parent to live with, how often they switch between parents’ homes, and how much free time they want to spend with each parent.
Before a custody and visitation agreement is amended, both parents must agree that a material and substantial change occurred; or the court discovers such a change occurred.
Changing Child Custody or Visitation
How you change your child’s custody or visitation depends on whether you and the other parent agree on the circumstances. If both parents approve the proposed changes, you can file a motion and proposed order with the court. The court reviews your proposal and issues a final order.
If a parent contests the changes, the parent requesting the modification should file a motion with the court. The court reviews the motion and decides whether an amendment should be made. Alternatively, parents who disagree may request mediation services through the court so these significant issues impacting their children's well-being can be decided in a fair and just manner.
A Skilled Attorney Will Work for Your Child's Benefit
Changing your child’s custody and visitation agreement may be the right move, but before you take action, consider all options to make sure you're acting in your child’s best interests.
An experienced New Mexico family lawyer can help you maintain a healthy family structure while effectively managing your legal costs. To learn more about the process, call us today or fill out the brief contact form on this page.