Kids being pulled by both parents

A parenting plan is one of the most vital agreements to put in place when facing a divorce with children or a custody case in New Mexico. Even in the most amicable divorces, or even if you were never married to the other parent, it is essential to have a parenting plan in place. The parenting plan helps to determine major details of your child’s living arrangements, schooling, and how decisions that impact their future will be made. If you don’t have one in place, there is nothing outlying custody, so you will have limited recourse in the event the other parent chooses to take the child or otherwise break a custody agreement. Since a parenting plan can be complex and often has a huge effect on your child's life and family dynamic, it is recommended that you have an experienced family law attorney assist you with setting it up or modifying it. 


The Most Important Parts of a Parenting Plan in New Mexico


In New Mexico, it is recommended that you and your spouse agree on a parenting plan before the divorce is finalized. Even if you have never been married, you still need to get a parenting plan in place. Custody is too important to be left up to chance. An ideal parenting plan will help you and your spouse avoid problems that typically arise in a shared custody arrangement. The most frequently included decisions in a parenting plan are as follows:

  • Child custody and visitation: You and your spouse will need to decide where the child will primarily live and how the time will be split between both parents. Pick up and drop off times and even places can be defined. Holiday time-sharing will also be addressed.

  • Healthcare: This covers what doctors and medical professionals your child will see, in addition to healthcare coverage and any special needs that must be met.

  • Basic care: Under this category, you’ll find needs that are met such as diet, sleep schedules, after-school activities, and other details specific to the child’s care.

  • Decisions: This section will discuss how decisions will be made, e.g, jointly, separately, or on a case-by-case basis.

  • Education: This is easily one of the most vital parts of the parenting plan because it covers where the child will attend school, how to deal with absences and grades, who attends parent-teacher meetings, and other events the child is taking part in. Other things to include in this section could include religion and recreational activities. 

  • Communication: Communication is key to making a parenting plan work when speaking about co-parenting. This section covers how you and your ex will communicate with each other to address drop-offs, pick-ups, transportation, expenses, and the myriad of other things that can arise when raising a child together.

  • Modifications: Another vital part of the parenting plan is modifications. If something comes up and you need to switch some things around for the custody of your child, there needs to be a plan in place about how it will be handled. 


What Kind of Custody is Awarded in New Mexico?


In the initial stages of custody cases, it is agreed that joint custody is the best option until otherwise proven to not be effective. This does not mean the court will order joint custody, rather than joint custody is the court's initial preference. However, it's important to note that New Mexico family courts use the standard of “best interests of the child” to determine custody. New Mexico family law courts may award sole custody and separate legal and physical custody in some cases. Grandparents or other family members can file for kinship/guardianship if they so choose. Click here for more information about how courts determine custody in New Mexico. The court does consider many factors when it comes to determining the best custody arrangement and ultimately, both parents are entitled to be in their child's life unless the court determines the parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child. The court will either make decisions on physical and legal custody, and whether joint custody or sole custody is more appropriate.


While the parenting plan is meant to be permanent, the court retains jurisdiction over the case. That means the parenting plan can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. 


How is Custody Determined in New Mexico

This is actually a very important question because so many different factors go into determining the best outcome for custody arrangements and parenting plans. In New Mexico, the most important thing to consider is the best interests of the child or children, the wishes of the child or children being impacted most by the custody arrangement and with that being said, the other things that are considered are as follows:

  • The wishes of both parents as to the custody of the child. 

  • The wishes of the child in question and if the child is over the age of 14, the residential preferences of the child are also considered (this does not mean that the children get to “choose” who they live with, just that the court will consider their preference).

  • The child’s relationship and bond with both parents, siblings or any other significant person in the child’s life. 

  • The child’s adjustment to their home environment, school, community and the effect that disrupting the flow of things could have on the child.

  • The physical and mental health of each parent and of the child is also considered in custody hearings. 


Additional Factors Considered in Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements.

In addition to everything that we just discussed above, there are a few other factors that are used to determine the best outcome for everyone involved in a custody arrangement or parenting plan. The court will also look into the following to determine the best course of action:

  • Whether the child has a strong, established relationship with both parents.

  • If each parent can provide adequate care for the child, which includes the times that they are physically responsible for the child and whether they are able to find and provide appropriate care options when the other parent is unable to be there.

  • Whether each parent can accept the responsibility of parenting the child, including picking up and dropping off the child at the predetermined times.

  • How frequent contact with each parent will affect the child.

  • Whether each parent can respect the others’ right to privacy and to not interfere with how they parent the child when it is their time with the child. 

  • Whether or not a joint custody agreement is ideal for the specific circumstances, along with special considerations to a jointly submitted parenting plan.

  • The proximity of the parents to one another. 

  • Instances of domestic violence are also considered so that the abused parent and child are in the best possible situation.


What If We Cannot Agree On A Parenting Plan?

In New Mexico, when a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon the court will recommend mediation to allow issues to be discussed in a neutral, calm environment. After mediation, if any issues are still unresolved it is up to the parents to individually submit the portion that is unable to be agreed upon and the court will review everything and make a decision from there. Due to the court not having the time or resources to determine what best fits the needs of each child on a case-by-case basis, it is up to the parents to determine the best course of action, based on what their child needs and as such, that is why it is allowed to submit a joint parenting plan to the courts.


Custody is one of the most important questions to resolve for you and your family's future. Every case is different and there are many factors involved when determining custody, that is why it is always best to consult with a New Mexico family law attorney.  If you need help with a divorce with children, establishing or modifying a custody agreement or parenting plan, our Albuquerque family law lawyer can help. Call 505-317-4455, chat with someone online now using our chat function or contact us here to start solving your problem today!

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Guardianship Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond