Albuquerque Child Custody Attorney

Bob Matteucci of Matteucci Family Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico is well aware of the difficulties inherent in child custody arrangements, having had extensive experience handling diverse child custody situations, including those involving same-sex and military families. If you are dealing with this emotional matter, contact us now. Bob Matteucci has the legal skills to help you arrive at an acceptable compromise and the empathy to provide you with the strong moral support you need during this unsettling period of transition. 

Bob believes firmly in the rights of both parents to spend maximum quality time with their children. He does not feel that there is any benefit to making children the prize for winning a tug-of-war or a courtroom battle. As your family law attorney, he will help you resolve child custody issues with as little turmoil as possible.

For the vast majority of parents, child custody is the most consequential and painful issue handled by family law attorneys. Splitting up as a couple is a mutual decision, but being denied the pleasure of living full-time with your child can feel unfair or even cruel. Once you contact Bob Matteucci, you will feel the reassurance that comes from being in capable hands. You can depend on Bob to create a customized child custody solution that is fair, workable, and comfortable for your child. 

Child Custody Laws in New Mexico

There are two recognized types of child custody: legal and physical. 

  • Legal custody refers to the right each parent has to make important decisions for their children concerning residential location, education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. Except in rare circumstances (e.g. when one parent has abused a child or is in a vegetative state), both parents have joint legal custody. 
  • Physical custody, on the other hand, defines which parent the child spends most of their time with. Though increasingly parents have joint physical custody of their kids (for example, every other week), it is also common for one parent to have primary physical custody and the other to have visitation (parenting time). 

Under these circumstances, visitation frequently involves one or two evenings a week, every other weekend, and stipulated holidays and vacations, but can be tailored to fit parental work schedules. 

How Physical Child Custody Is Decided in New Mexico

New Mexico Family Moment Photo

No two cases of child custody are identical and both parents need to work towards the goal of arranging parental custody that works best for the child’s practical and emotional needs. To do this, they should be willing to put aside their own desires and work toward the outcome that is least stressful for their offspring. 

In most cases, this can be accomplished through skillful negotiation between the parents’ two attorneys or, more rarely, if the parents choose, through mediation. If a couple has already decided on mediation when they come to Matteucci Family Law, Bob has the special training to serve as mediator where he does not take sides but rather assists the couple in arriving at a compromise acceptable to each parent. If this is not possible, further intervention may be necessary.

Guardian ad Litem

In many child custody cases, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is appointed by the court to protect the rights and best interests of the child during proceedings. GALs have special training and certification to speak on the child’s behalf. 

When a GAL is brought onto a case, they will perform an evaluation of the family, which could either be a relatively short or long process. The GAL is responsible for writing a report that describes the evaluation process and summarizes the parties and actions that brought the family to where they are now. He or she will also provide recommendations regarding legal and physical custody.

After the parties and attorneys receive the reports, they have 10 days to agree to the recommendations. If either one of the parents, or both, disagrees with the recommendations, the attorneys will attempt to settle. However, if they agree, the attorneys will draft a parenting plan that includes the recommendations and they will then file it with the Court. 

If negotiations between the attorneys is unsuccessful and other settlement options do not bring a resolution, the judge will make decisions about child custody arrangements that they believe are in the best interests of the child. And typically, the judge will respect the GAL’s recommendations.  A GAL often offers input and, in exceptional cases, a child psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker will be brought in to give expert testimony to clarify the situation. The judge is tasked with considering all the evidence, taking applicable items in the following list into account:

  • The wishes of the child and both parents
  • The child’s age and emotional maturity
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and with siblings
  • The child’s relationship with other relevant parties (e.g. a parent’s new partner or spouse, roommate or housemate, grandparent)
  • Whether one parent has ever served as the primary caregiver
  • The child’s access to school, family doctors, friends 
  • Health or safety issues in either residence
  • Any history of child abuse or domestic violence
  • Whether either parent has a history of substance abuse
  • Whether either parent has trouble maintaining steady employment
  • The work schedules of both parents 

This is a long list, but every element may be crucial to the child’s future.

Matters that Make Child Custody Even More Complicated

Couple sitting with divorce attorney

As if decisions about child custody weren’t tricky enough, many factors arise that can make the matter even more complex, including:

  • One Parent Moves Away

Having more distance between parental residences complicates custody in several ways: the time and expense involved in shuttling the child back and forth, the stress on the child that may be imposed by lengthy trips, the difficulty accessing school, friends, and familiar doctors or therapists from a distant location. While customized arrangements can make this a viable option, it should be remembered that a parent who moves a great distance within New Mexico or out of state is not legally permitted to do so without the other parent’s written consent or a court order. 

  • One Parent Has the Child’s Original Documents

While copies of school and medical records are easily made, there are circumstances in which original documents, such as birth certificates and passports, must be presented. When parents have joint legal custody, they are entitled to have access to all of their child’s records and documents. Unfortunately, it is not unknown for one parent to keep possession of such documents or records as a power play. Occasionally, arguments around such matters must be settled in court.

  • One Parent Is Accused of Being Unfit

In a troubling number of contentious parental splits, accusations of bad behavior arise. It is not uncommon for one parent to accuse the other of drug or alcohol abuse, associating with criminals, living in unsafe surroundings, or working at a disreputable job. One parent may also take issue with the other parent’s new partner or housemate, claiming that the individual is a bad influence or even a danger to the child. 

Our sharp family law attorney is always on your side. Bob will work hard to prove these allegations are true if you fear for your child’s safety and, also, fight to prove them false if you are being unfairly accused.

  • The Child Is Already Comfortably in School

Most of us can agree that the less disruption for the child, the better. If your child is already attending school, maintaining that stability is a good idea. Familiar teachers and friends can help the child retain a sense of normalcy. Nonetheless, there are instances in which the child may relish a chance to start fresh at a new school or a child is performing poorly in school and other options need to be considered.

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with in New Mexico? 

There is no specific age at which a child can decide which parent to live with in New Mexico, however, a Judge is more apt to take a child’s wishes into consideration if they are age 14 or older.

The court will consider the child’s wishes, but the child’s age is just one factor that the court will consider. Other factors include the child’s maturity, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the child’s best interests.

The court is more likely to consider the wishes of an older child, such as a teenager. However, the court may also consider the wishes of a younger child, if the child is mature enough and the child’s wishes are genuine.

If you are going through a child custody case in New Mexico, it is important to consult with an experienced child custody lawyer. A lawyer can help you understand the law and advocate for your child’s best interests.

Contact Bob Matteucci to Smooth the Path to Equitable Child Custody

Because of Bob Matteucci’s belief in the power of skillful negotiation, only 25 percent of his cases go to trial. That means that if you work with Matteucci Family Law you stand an excellent chance of avoiding the costs, inevitable scheduling problems, and the public venue of the courtroom. Contact Bob now so he can assist you in arriving at the best possible parenting plan with the least possible upheaval.

Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with child custody matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.