Child support is an issue that has to be addressed if the parents divorce or separate. New Mexico has a set of guidelines that govern how child support is decided in most cases. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that calculating child support is a simple matter. Whether you’re the parent who is owed or the one who is paying it, you need trusted legal guidance. You can count on our family law attorney Bob Matteucci.
How Child Support Works in New Mexico
Like many states, New Mexico uses guidelines to calculate child support in most cases. In almost all cases the parent that has the child over 50% of the time (sometimes referred to as the custodial parent) will be ordered to pay the parent with less time (sometimes referred to as the non-custodial parent) a certain monthly amount. This is intended to afford the child with a similar lifestyle that he or she would have had if the parents had stayed together.
Parents will use either Worksheet A or Worksheet B per these guidelines. Worksheet A is used when one parent has the child more than 65% of the time. Worksheet B is used when the child spends the same, or nearly the same, amount of time with both parents.
These worksheets take into account certain information such as:
- Both parents’ gross incomes (before taxes or anything is withheld)
- The number of children the parents have
- How much time each parent has with the child
- What both parents pay for the child’s health insurance coverage
- Both parents’ work-related childcare costs
Some parents view support as a form of punishment or contend that the parent receiving the money is spending it on themselves. While child support is undoubtedly abused by some parents, it is designed to cover expenses necessary to raise the child. Those include the following:
- Medical and dental expenses
- Tuition, school supplies, and other educational expenses
- Costs for extracurricular activities
Can parents come up with their own amount?
Parents do have the option to come up with an amount on their own. However, if the parents agree to an amount that is less than what the guidelines would require, the judge is going to want to know why. That’s because the guidelines are presumed to be accurate for meeting the child’s basic needs in most cases. Of course, parents can agree to pay more than what the guidelines would require, and often decide to formalize that agreement in their divorce papers.
How long does child support last?
Parents are obligated to pay support in most cases until the child is either 18 years old and has graduated from high school, or 19 years old if the child is still in school. However, if the child has a disability that makes it impossible for him or her to be self-sufficient, the obligation can continue indefinitely.
When there are multiple children, and one leaves the child support system, a new amount needs to be calculated. A document acknowledging this should be filed with the Court. This is important. The paying parent cannot unilaterally change the amount of money owed to the custodial parent. Doing so could subject the parent to contempt proceedings or other actions for violating a court order.
Common Issues that Arise in Child Support Cases
Whether the parents were formerly married or not, child support is a frequent source of contention between parents. It is strongly advised that you retain a knowledgeable attorney, especially if you’re dealing with such issues as:
Disputes over income. Since gross income largely determines the outcome of a support calculation, it’s no surprise that parents often spar over it. One parent may be accused of under-reporting or hiding income to avoid paying more. Another common problem is when one parent loses a job or is deliberately working less to try to suppress his or her income. In cases like these, the court can impute income to the parent who owes.
If you are the paying parent and you lose your job or start earning less through no fault of your own, you are still required to pay support. You cannot simply decide on your own to stop paying the full amount, even if you are trying to find employment. Instead, you should talk to your attorney immediately about modifying the amount.
Child support enforcement. Missed payments, late payments, and related problems can be frustrating. They can also get the paying parent in trouble with the court. The parent who is owed child support has several options at his or her disposal to compel payments and punish violations of court orders. For example, the state Child Support Enforcement Division can take such measures as:
- Garnishing the paying parent’s wages
- Seizing income tax refunds
- Suspending the parent’s driver’s license or professional license
- Placing liens on property
The state takes child support seriously. So whether you’re the paying or receiving parent, talk to your attorney if there is any problem with making timely, accurate payments.
Withholding visitation over missed payments (or withholding payment over missed visitation). Although the amount of custody a parent has is used to calculate child support, child custody and support are viewed as two separate matters in New Mexico. It is inappropriate for the other parent to withhold visitation from you because you’ve missed a child support payment. Likewise, it is inappropriate for a parent to refuse to pay child support because they weren’t able to visit with the child.
There are proper avenues for relief when support or visitation is denied. Taking matters into your own hands, however, will land you in hot water.
Contact Bob Matteucci for Child Support Assistance
Bob Matteucci works with parents who receive and who pay child support as they navigate the legal challenges these cases present. Bob Matteucci can also explore out-of-court solutions that may help save time, money, and stress. No matter which side of the case you are on, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with child support matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.