Perhaps the most emotionally challenging part of family law is child custody. Whether you are married to the other parent or not, child custody must be determined if the two of you part ways. Although cases like these often end up in front of a judge, they don’t have to. You need a compassionate child custody attorney who will explore all legal options with you.
Matteucci Family Law represents formerly married and unmarried parents who want what’s best for their children. When you retain Bob Matteucci as your attorney, he gets to work immediately and comes up with creative solutions to resolve your case.
The Basics of New Mexico Child Custody Law
Child custody is divided into physical and legal custody. Physical custody concerns which parent the child lives with most of the time and the time-sharing that both parents will have with the child. If a child spends the majority of his or her time with one parent, that parent is said to have primary custody. Physical custody is also concerned with visitation during holidays, vacations, and other special events which are sometimes exceptions to the standard custody arrangement.
Legal custody, meanwhile, refers to the authority of either or both parents to make significant decisions for the child. These are not everyday, mundane decisions like what to have for dinner. These involve matters such as the child’s education, healthcare, religion, extracurricular activities, residence (city/state) and similar things. There is a presumption that the parents will share this responsibility, although there are cases in which one parent can be granted sole legal custody.
Every custody case is different. Concerning physical custody, for instance, the time-sharing arrangement that works for one family will be unsuitable for another. The individual circumstances of each child will play a role in what a court ultimately decides.
However, the only concern the judge will have in your custody case is the best interest of the child. As you can imagine, what a child’s best interests are will vary from one case to another. What a parent wants won’t always be in line with the best interests of the child. But the child’s desires won’t necessarily control the decision, either. The judge has to consider all evidence, which may take into account the following:
- The wishes of the child and both parents
- The child’s age and emotional maturity
- How the child relates to the parents and any siblings
- How the child relates to other individuals, like a parent’s new spouse
- Whether either parent has ever served as the primary caregiver for the child
- Environmental factors affecting health, education, or other matters
- Any history of child abuse or domestic violence
- Whether either parent has drug or alcohol problems
- Whether either parent has trouble maintaining steady employment
- Work schedules, which could make it difficult for one parent to have primary custody
Common Issues that Complicate Child Custody
Since there are so many factors the court has to take into consideration, there are a lot of things that can make resolving child custody difficult. These are just a few of them:
Moving. When both parents reside fairly close to each other within New Mexico, custody and visitation can generally proceed without issue. But when one parent – especially the one with primary custody – wants to move, things may get difficult. While either parent is free to move on their own, neither can move the child outside of the state without the other parent’s written consent or court order. The same applies if one parent wants to move a substantial distance out of town while remaining in New Mexico.
Parental fitness. Parents often argue over which one is better suited to care for the child. For instance, accusations of drug or alcohol abuse are not uncommon after parents split up. If a parent begins dating someone else, the other parent may take issue with the presence of a new boyfriend or girlfriend. Many parents are surprised to have their parental fitness questioned in these and other cases. However, valid concerns should certainly be brought to your attorney’s attention.
Education. If a child is already in school, he or she should generally remain there after the parents split up. The challenge comes when a child is entering school for the first time, or graduating from one school to another (e.g. middle school to high school). In cases like these, and where the parents live in different school districts, there can be disagreements as to which should claim residency for educational purposes.
Access to Important information and records. Courts usually grant joint legal custody to parents, and part of their custodial rights is to have access to health, educational, and other records and information. Sometimes court orders obligate one parent to provide these records or information to the other upon request. But parents frequently neglect this responsibility and fail to share important information or records about the child with the other parent.
Do we have to go to court?
Typically not. Judges want to see parents get along with one another, and ideally, they will come to mutually agreeable terms, with or without attorneys, on how to parent their children. In the event you and the other parent agree as to custody, visitation, and related matters, our firm can help draft and execute a Parenting Plan. This document will need to be submitted to the court but is much easier to complete when both parents are on the same page. Similarly, mediation is an option where the parents don’t quite agree on all of the details but are willing to negotiate and try to settle custody.
Contact New Mexico Child Custody Attorney Bob Matteucci
If you have a custody or visitation case with the other parent, Matteucci Family Law is ready to help. Bob Matteucci is incredibly successful at handling New Mexico child custody cases and working to come up with the best solutions for the needs of clients and their children. Contact us today to learn more.
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with child custody matters across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.