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Your child is one of the most precious things in your life, and you will want to protect their well-being and happiness throughout the divorce process and what comes after.

New Mexico Financial & Family Law is here to advocate for parents who wish to spend as much time as possible caring for their child and nurturing them into the outstanding adults they deserve to become. Our Albuquerque child custody lawyers are available to discuss the details of your case and to assist you in advocating for the best arrangement possible for child custody as part of your pending divorce agreement. We can also assist with helping you appeal or amend an existing divorce decree if your divorce has already been finalized.

No matter what situation you are in, we are here to help you and your family. Reach out for a no-risk, no-obligation consultation now when you call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online today.

The Difference Between Child Custody and Time-Sharing/Parenting Plans

Those with a general understanding of divorce law know that there are two main types of custody: “physical custody” and “legal custody.”

New Mexico uses the term “child custody” to refer to the same concept as “legal custody.” A parent granted child custody in New Mexico, therefore, has the right to make critical decisions in the child’s life. These include the schools the child will attend, the programs they might participate in, their religious affiliation, and any major medical decisions.

The term “physical custody” is analogous to what the state of New Mexico calls “time-sharing” or the divorce decree’s official “parenting plan.” As part of the divorce, the couple will decide how much time each child will spend with each parent. This is what the state calls “time-sharing.” Additionally, parents will set forth a plan to get children through the year, including arrangements for school, doctors visits, pre-planned vacations, and transfers between parents.

Parents are expected to largely work out all of these highly technical details between themselves. After all, they are the experts in how their children are raised!

If parents cannot agree on a single plan, the presiding judge over the divorce case will typically request (or order) that the couple attend mediation sessions and make efforts to negotiate a single workable agreement between them. It’s only when parents can’t come to an agreement that a court may intervene and hold hearings, issuing rulings on custody and time-sharing only as a last resort.

What Goes Into Settling a Child Custody Dispute in Albuquerque?

In an ideal situation, both parents entering into a divorce will submit one proposal for child custody. Note that the common usage of the term “child custody” encompasses both legal decision making (custody) and who will be spending time with the children when (periods of responsibility).

While it is common for both parents to be granted joint custody over the child in terms of legal decision-making, parents will almost inevitably spend uneven amounts of time with their children. Determination of periods of responsibility will be set according to a parenting plan and a time-sharing schedule.

If one parent feels they should spend more time with the child than the other parent cares for, or if one parent feels they should have sole decision-making authority for their child, then a child custody dispute arises.

New Mexico family courts encourage both parents to discuss their differences during mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution in order to come to a single time-sharing plan agreement. When such an agreement cannot be reached, the court will consider the merits of each plan in order to select one over the other or to combine them into one appropriate plan.

The standard of judgment in these situations is always “what is in the best interests of the children?” In a situation where both parents are equally able to care for the child, and the child can easily move between households, the courts will tend to favor an agreement that splits time as close to equal as possible.

However, in many situations, parents will contend that their proposed agreement makes the most sense for the schedule of the child, the child’s preference towards spending time with one parent, or other similar factors.

Parents proposing an uneven time-sharing agreement must be prepared to demonstrate why their proposal makes the most sense for the well-being of the child and the convenience of everyone involved. They may also need to be willing to adopt some of the elements of the other parent’s proposal in order to come to a consensus. In either event, having an experienced child custody lawyer in Albuquerque will be beneficial. They will assist you in gathering evidence to determine what time-sharing arrangement makes the most sense for the children’s well-being, and they can help you document factors like the capacity of each parent to care for the child on a regular basis.

Ruling on Child Custody Disputes

In situations where a court must make a decision on the child’s custody and how they will spend time with each parent, the presiding judge over the case will have final say. If any children affected are age 14 or older, the judge will take their wishes very much into consideration. Children younger than 14 can express their preferences, but the presiding judge will make the ultimate determination as to what is in the child’s best interests.

Factors a judge may consider when ruling on a child custody matter include:

● The relationship between the child and each parent
● The child’s comfort and adjustment to their current home and school
● The health of the children and parents
● The wishes of the children and parents
● The ability of each parent to care for, supervise, and provide a safe environment for the children

Barring any extreme circumstances, the presiding judge will attempt to share custody between parents and assign regular visitation time to both parents. While the final time-sharing schedule may be unequal, the expectation is that regular visitation at least a few times a month enables a parent to be a part of the child’s life.

Seeking Sole Custody in Albuquerque

Parents seeking to obtain sole custody over their children should know that the momentum of the court is not in their favor. Except in circumstances where a parent poses an imminent threat to the health, safety, and well-being of a child, the courts will attempt to award joint custody and regular visitation.

If a parent wishes to retain sole custody, they must be prepared to demonstrate how the other parent is unfit and unsafe. For example, a parent who has current issues with substance abuse or who has physically/emotionally/sexually abused any of the children is more likely to be denied joint custody. Keep in mind, though, that there must be demonstrable cause for fear of harm. In cases where a parent merely suspects that a child is at risk or when a parent points to general behavioral issues, the court will attempt to give the other parent the benefit of the doubt that they are capable of being involved in their child’s life.

If you strongly feel your child would be unsafe if another parent retained custody (the ability to make key decisions in the child’s life), then you and your attorney must be prepared to provide concrete evidence that serves as proof that it is more likely than not that a parent would place a child in harm’s way if they had custody.

Keep in mind, too, that a parent can have sole custody but still be forced to create a parenting plan and time-sharing agreement with the other parent. In extreme cases where the parent is suspected to be a major risk to the child’s health and safety, visitation may be supervised by a state-appointed agent.

Child Custody Agreements Are Complicated, So Seek Help From an Albuquerque Child Custody Attorney

Coming to a proposal on child custody and time-sharing can be incredibly time-consuming and require hours of research into your routines and other aspects of your life. You will need to consider the current state of how your children are raised and be able to come to a realistic, reasonable proposal for a future state that can be argued to be in the children’s best interests.

Disputes and disagreements are common. What is essential in these contested divorce cases is for each parent to understand A) What the other parent is capable of providing for their child in terms of material and emotional support and B) What the other parent’s primary goals and wishes are for the future relationship with their children. Understanding both can help a parent reach a realistic compromise in everyone’s best interests.

In cases where a parent may pose a danger to children or is otherwise unfit, the other parent must be prepared to describe exactly why they feel this is the case, and they must be prepared to present evidence.

All of the above situations may benefit from the guidance, knowledge, and representation provided by an attorney. New Mexico Financial & Family Law has helped hundreds of families in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico to come to a final divorce agreement to benefit everyone. Start discussing your primary goals and preparing for your proposed child custody arrangement when you schedule a confidential, no-risk consultation. Schedule your consultation now when you call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online.

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