Family Law Service

Child custody and support are frequently the most emotionally challenging aspects of a divorce.

Child Custody

Often poorly understood by divorcing couples, child custody is actually composed of two separate decisions and understanding the difference can help to lower the level of conflict.

The first is decision making responsibility for the child: who will have legal responsibility for making choices as to education, religion and medical issues. In New Mexico, there is a strong presumption in favor of shared decision making, that is, for equal responsibility for the major decisions in a child’s life.

Sometimes, in unusual cases, sole decision making power is found to be in the best interests of the child.

The second factor is parenting time. Here again, New Mexico strongly favors awarding shared parenting time. But while both parties may have parenting time, it may be unequal, with one parent having significantly more parenting time than another. Being the “custodial (decision making) parent” bears little weight on how much time the child will spend with the parent.

Child Custody Mediation: When parents disagree about child custody, the Court requires them to participate in mediation to try to reach an agreement before they are free to go to court. Reaching an agreement is not mandatory, however, and if no agreement is reached, the parties must go through other court processes. All WFL attorneys have had mediation training and can assist clients before and during child custody mediation.

Mental Health Assistance: Often, parents confer with a mental health professional to receive advice as to what is best for the child. Sometimes, a mental health counselor is appointed by the court to give an opinion to the court as the child’s best interests. WFL has worked with many of the best professionals in New Mexico to help clients determine what is best for their children.

Child Custody Between New Mexico and Other States: In general, the state where the child lives determines child custody questions, but there are exceptions, both in the federal and state statutes. Determining whether any of the exceptions apply in a given case requires the full familiarity of a well‐versed domestic relations lawyer. International Child Custody Provisions of federal and international law govern child custody cases involving jurisdiction disputes between different countries and New Mexico. The country where the child has lived usually determines child custody, although there are many complexities in law’s application.

WFL has handled child custody cases involving:

  • Children detained by a local parent while visiting from their home abroad. WFL has represented local parents in determining if they have the right to keep the child here and has also assisted foreign parents in obtaining the children’s return.
  • Children of an American parent trying to get their child back from a foreign country.

Clients contemplating moving abroad, or coming here with a child from another country, should discuss the legal implications of doing so, even if they believe their marriage is good. The laws are complex and mistakes can be devastating.

Child Support

Child support is driven by a formula that uses variables including the amount of time the child spends with each parent, the gross monthly income of each parent and what extras the parents have agreed to provide. Each of these variables is subject to dispute. In addition, the law allows for deviations from the generally accepted guidelines. Counsel should be consulted prior to agreeing to child support.

If you require legal assistance in any of these areas and would like to schedule an appointment, please phone us at 505 889 8240 (Albuquerque) or 505 984 0097 (Santa Fe) or online through our contact form.