Shot of a man spending time with son

From the moment your child takes its first breath, your life is forever changed. You and your bond with the child’s mother may have been strong, but the bond between you and your children goes far beyond your DNA. Your character and behavior shape the tiny human you helped create into the person he or she will become, and their relationship with you will have a lasting impact on their life. 

Obtaining legal recognition of the important role you play in your child’s life is something you may never have expected to need, but it is something the Matteucci Family Law team can help you get. Whether you are going through a divorce, or you were never married to your child’s mother, we can help you navigate New Mexico’s child custody system. 

New Mexico Law Favors Joint Custody

Being a parent is the privilege of a lifetime, so no court is going to strip the rights or responsibilities that come with that position from you unless you are completely unfit for the job.

In fact, NM Stat § 40-4-9.1 (2021), includes a presumption that joint legal custody almost always be awarded, and both parents be tasked with working together to ensure their child’s needs are met. The law specifies that: 

  • (1) each parent shall have significant, well-defined periods of responsibility for the child;
  • (2) each parent shall have, and be allowed and expected to carry out, responsibility for the child’s financial, physical, emotional, and developmental needs during that parent’s periods of responsibility; and 
  • (3) the parents shall consult with each other on major decisions involving the child before implementing those decisions.

If you are reading this and realizing that this is going to involve a lot more co-parenting than you had in mind, you are right. The law not only protects your rights as a father, it roughly outlines contours of those responsibilities and emphasizes the fact that they are shared with your child’s mother.

Joint Custody Doesn’t Mean Equal Custody

As you were reading the law above you may also have noticed that the word “equal” is missing from it. That is by design. 

The amount of time a child spends with each parent is unlikely to be split 50/50. One parent typically has primary physical custody while the other plays an important supporting role. Sometimes the periods a noncustodial parent is granted with a child are referred to as visitation.

How much time your child will spend with you depends on a wide variety of factors including:

  • the child’s preferences and needs;
  • the relationship your child has with you, his or her mother, siblings, and extended family members or other people important to the child;
  • the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; and
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved.

No matter what, any plan governing the physical custody of your child must serve your child’s best interest. Not your best interest. Not your child’s mother’s best interest. Your child’s best interest. 

Physical Custody Isn’t The Only Kind Of Custody

You may also have noticed that the law quoted above talks about a lot more than which parent your child is going to live with. It also demands that you and your child’s mother step up and ensure the financial, physical, emotional, and developmental welfare of your child. 

What this will mean in your situation will vary based on your unique family circumstances. However, the New Mexico courts prefer parents draft a parenting plan that includes: 

  • (1) statements regarding the child’s religion, education, child care, recreational activities, and medical and dental care;
  • (2) designation of specific decision-making responsibilities;
  • (3) methods of communicating information about the child, transporting the child, exchanging care for the child, and maintaining telephone and mail contact between parent and child;
  • (4) procedures for future decision-making, including procedures for dispute resolution; and
  • (5) other statements regarding the welfare of the child or designed to clarify and facilitate parenting under joint custody arrangements.

Attorney Matteucci can help you craft language that addresses these and other topics you and your child’s mother desire. 

Fighting For Custody When You Were Never Married To Your Child’s Mother

If you were not married to your child’s mother at the time of your child’s birth it may be necessary to petition the court for paternity as part of your effort to seek custody. In this day and age, with DNA testing readily available, you should not let this be a barrier to seeking custody. 

Serving New Mexico Father with Dignity & Compassion 

It is impossible to overstate the impact a father has on his child’s life. New Mexico has woven this truth into our state laws by all but requiring courts grant parents joint custody over their children. 
Albuquerque area Dads who are eager to step into those responsibilities and co-parent their children can count on the Matteucci Family Law team to help them craft a custody agreement and parenting plan that meets their family’s unique needs. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting.