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Child visitation schedules and parental timesharing arrangements are some of the most important outcomes of a New Mexico divorce decree.

Child visitation in New Mexico is set according to a schedule that works most reasonably for both parents. Each parent must determine what schedule would work best for their needs and desires. They will then have to work with the other parent to come to an agreement on the best schedule for everyone involved — most of all, the children.

When New Mexico courts evaluate a potential child visitation (timesharing) agreement, they always consider it in light of the best interests of the child (NM Stat § 40-4-9.1). The court will also consider other factors pertinent to each parent’s availability to care for the child and the distance required to travel from one parent’s house to the other. Because of these considerations, it is vital for a parent wishing to spend time with their child to be prepared to demonstrate how their plan is in the child’s interests and why it makes the most sense for everyone involved.

New Mexico Financial & Family Law wants to help you spend as much time with your children as possible. We are experienced in handling divorce cases and assisting divorcing couples with coming to an arrangement that works in everyone’s best interests. Our Albuquerque child visitation attorneys are familiar with the evidence and arguments most effective for supporting a proposed visitation schedule.

Schedule a no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options and the best strategies for moving forward. Call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online to book your appointment today.

Reaching an Agreement for Timesharing and Periods of Responsibility in Albuquerque

Just like other aspects of the divorce decree, family courts in the Second Judicial District of New Mexico will ideally expect the child visitation agreement to be presented as one single proposal during divorce hearings.

Child visitation is described formally in what the courts refer to as a parenting plan. The court describes situations where the parent has “physical custody” as a “period of responsibility.” The parenting plan will lay out a schedule for periods of responsibility for both parents. It should include realistic accommodations for holidays, special events, vacation travel, and other possible disruptions to the routine.

If both parents cannot agree on a single parenting plan, the judge presiding over the divorce case will typically recommend mediation. The court may also review both proposals and select one over the other, or it may combine the two proposals into one single plan based on both parents’ needs and — above all else — the children’s best interests.

Ideally, time will be split equally between parents. In situations where this is not feasible, such as the case when one parent moves away, or one parent does not have the time to spend with the children like the other does, then periods of responsibility may fall on a less-frequent schedule, such as every other weekend.

A parent seeking to spend as much time as possible with their child should consider the child’s schedule, including extracurriculars and important events like visiting relatives. They should then create a realistic timesharing plan that accounts for the child’s needs and both parents’ schedules. They can also speak to the other parent with their attorneys and a neutral party present during mediation to come to a single proposal that works out in everyone’s favor.

What Considerations Go Into a Time-Sharing Schedule and Parenting Plan?

The foremost factor in all decisions regarding a child’s future is whether or not the proposed agreement is in the child’s best interests. Children need a number of factors in order to thrive, including loving relationships, access to healthcare, access to proper schooling, the ability to participate in enriching activities like sports and arts, participation in their community through organizations like churches, and the ability to see their beloved family members on a regular basis.

Time-sharing schedules should recognize and account for all of the child’s needs. They must also acknowledge the challenges and limitations facing each parent. For example, if a parent moves out of state following the divorce and must travel several hours to meet the children, the time-sharing schedule must propose reasonable pick-up and drop-off arrangements so that disruptions to the child’s life are minimal. Children must also not be barred from participating in sports or extracurricular activities simply because they are expected to be visiting the other parent.

A great deal of research and legal reasoning must, therefore, go into a time-sharing schedule. Parents must be willing to take honest stock of their lives and their schedule and propose an arrangement that realistically meets their obligations despite any limitations. If, for example, a hectic work schedule requires a parent to frequently travel for business, they will be expected to submit a time-sharing schedule they can reasonably adhere to without constant disruptions or the need for modifications.

Objecting to Terms of a Parenting Plan and Time-Sharing Schedule

A parent may object to another parent’s proposal, but they must be prepared to clearly state why and have their own proposed arrangement at-the-ready. Objections should specifically relate to the feasibility of the arrangement and the impact it would have on the children’s well-being.

One common example is that a child may be missing key calendar events because of the proposed schedule. Big events like major sports tournaments, play nights, vacations to see extended family, etc. are considered important in the child’s life. If a schedule might force a child to not sign up for certain sports or other activities or to miss out on important family visits, the presiding court official may request that parents find a way to keep time-sharing equitable while working around these scheduling dates.

Another common objection is that a visit would have a negative impact on the child based on certain circumstances. If, for example, the child is forced to come to the parent’s work location during the weekend and not spend much time with the parent, the court may request that the parent with a busy schedule find specific times to set aside for visitation.

In any case, evidence and sound reasoning are the most important currency in having your objections considered by the court. Parents concerned about a proposed schedule or eager to have their own schedule have preference should speak with an experienced child visitation lawyer in Albuquerque to discuss their concerns, form a legal strategy, and build evidence.

Modifying the Time-Sharing and Parenting Plan

A time-sharing or parenting plan can be changed, but any changes must be formally requested to the family court and approved by the case’s providing judge.

Any parent that wishes to submit a modification to the time-sharing schedule and parenting plan should first consider running the change by the other parent. If you are on okay terms with that parent, having their consent to submit the modification can greatly reduce friction for the submission and approval process.

In any case, a parent submitting a modification request should be prepared to demonstrate a few things:

1. A major life change or discovery that would make the modification necessary
2. Reasonable justification for the change, including recognition of how it would affect the existing arrangements
3. Evidence demonstrating how the change is in the best interests of any affected children

For most divorce cases, modifications can be granted freely and with minimal effort. However, when a parent is suspicious of modifications or when a court appointee feels as if changes could be to the detriment of the child’s (or children’s) well-being, then the parent requesting the modification should be prepared to present evidence and sound reasoning defending their requested change.

All Custody Modifications Must Be Approved Through the Court

As a result of unexpected and unpredictable schedule changes, some parents are finding that their ex-spouse is withholding visitation. Or, the spouse may be making unilateral decisions about the child’s life without regard for joint custody agreements contained in the divorce decree.

There are repercussions to disregarding a divorce decree. Parents who withhold planned time with children can be subject to court motions to enforce, contempt of court proceedings, possible fines, and other actions. A parent wishing to make an “emergency” modification must provide justification for their decision beyond a generalized concern. The court must approve any long-term modification, and both parents must have input in these modification hearings.

The best approach for a parent who finds themself in a situation where visitation is withheld is to consult with child visitation lawyers in Albuquerque. Often, the threat of organized legal action can be enough to motivate a parent to agree to alternative dispute resolution outside of court, such as through mediation. When both parents can come to an agreement and present it to the court, the modification request is significantly more likely to receive speedy approval.

You do not have to allow a parent to suddenly change the visitation schedule, cancel vacation plans, or withhold visitation indefinitely without explanation. Contact our child visitation attorneys in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to learn about your available options now.

Speak to an Albuquerque Child Visitation Attorney

New Mexico Financial & Family Law has extensive experience working through divorce agreements and helping families find a realistic plan to ensure that children can be happy and thrive.

Speak to us during a confidential, no-obligation case review when you call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online.

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