In New Mexico family law cases involving custody of a child, family courts make decisions that will promote the child’s emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. A legal determination best suited for each situation must be made based on the best interest of the child. When a couple does not agree about where the child should live and how much time the child should spend with each parent, the case must be looked at by the court and the appropriate plan will be put in place. Highly contentious custody cases usually go through a custody evaluation which can be done in one of three ways;  family court clinic provides mediation at a low cost, or a 706 expert is a private custody evaluator employed if the results from court clinic are not favorable, or a Guardian ad Litem, a professional who completes a full investigation of the situation and makes a recommendation to the court. Family courts recognize the challenges faced by parents and children, and our experienced Albuquerque divorce and custody lawyers can help with your New Mexico child custody case.

Gavel and sign that says New Mexico Child Custody

How is child custody determined in New Mexico?

In order to attain a child support order or a custody and visitation order, you must first establish paternity. Furthermore, New Mexico’s child custody laws are based on the presumption that joint custody is in the child’s best interest. Many factors are considered before formally presenting joint custody as the best option for the child, which include the child’s relationship with each parent, whether or not parents are capable and accepting of their duties to care for the child, and other logistics of the family unit such as prior physical abuse if any, distance, and the child’s development. In some cases, a court may rule that sole custody is in the child’s best interest, meaning that the court grants all rights and responsibilities to only one parent. Although joint custody allows both parents the right to make legal decisions for the child, it does not mean that both parents are allowed to spend equal time with the child. Joint custody consists of two underlying areas knows as legal custody and physical custody.

What Is Legal Custody?

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s life, including education and medical management. The state of New Mexico expects parents to share legal custody and work together to manage these responsibilities equally. Ideally, courts refrain from removing one parent from major decision-making in the child’s life. However, at times, depending on the situation, the court may award one parent sole legal custody, which grants all decision power only to that parent. In other words, even if you are denied the opportunity for timesharing, you will typically have the right to have joint legal custody of the child.

What Is Physical Custody?

Physical custody refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent. It states who is physically responsible for the children and for how long. These “periods of responsibility” vary on a case-by-case basis. Many factors contribute to the decision about physical custody, including the parents’ mental and physical health, employment demands, previous relationship with the children, the age of the children, and other considerations. It’s important to note that legal custody and physical custody are entirely separate. One parent can have complete legal and physical custody leaving the other parent out of the picture, or parents can share legal custody but not share physical custody, or both parents can share legal and physical custody of the child. 

If you need help with a custody or timesharing issue, our experienced Albuquerque custody lawyers are here to help. You can reach our team at 505-317-4455 or you can chat with someone online now to schedule your case strategy session with a real Albuquerque custody attorney. Unlike many firms, Genus Law only practices family law. That means all of our staff, processes, and experience are geared toward getting you the best possible outcome in your New Mexico divorce, custody or child support case.

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