The following is a summary of New Mexico child custody laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full New Mexico Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Child Custody Guidelines.

In determining custody of a minor child, New Mexico laws require the court, if the minor is under the age of fourteen, to determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

  1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to his custody;
  2. The wishes of the child as to his custodian;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parents, his siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
  4. The child’s adjustment to his home, school and community; and
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.

If the minor is fourteen years of age or older, the court shall consider the desires of the minor as to with whom he wishes to live before awarding custody of such minor. The court shall not prefer one parent as a custodian solely because of gender.

Joint Custody.

When the parents agree to a form of custody, the court should award custody consistent with the agreement unless the court determines that such agreement is not in the best interests of the child. There shall be a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of a child in an initial custody determination. In determining whether a joint custody order is in the best interests of the child, in addition to the factors listed above, the court shall consider the following factors:

  1. Whether the child has established a close relationship with each parent;
  2. Whether each parent is capable of providing adequate care for the child throughout each period of responsibility, including arranging for the child’s care by others as needed;
  3. Whether each parent is willing to accept all responsibilities of parenting, including a willingness to accept care of the child at specified times and to relinquish care to the other parent at specified times;
  4. Whether the child can best maintain and strengthen a relationship with both parents through predictable, frequent contact and whether the child’s development will profit from such involvement and influence from both parents;
  5. Whether each parent is able to allow the other to provide care without intrusion, that is, to respect the other’s parental rights and responsibilities and right to privacy;
  6. The suitability of a parenting plan for the implementation of joint custody, preferably, although not necessarily, one arrived at through parental agreement;
  7. Geographic distance between the parents’ residences;
  8. Willingness or ability of the parents to communicate, cooperate or agree on issues regarding the child’s needs; and
  9. Whether a judicial adjudication has been made in a prior or the present proceeding that either parent or other person seeking custody has engaged in one or more acts of domestic abuse against the child, a parent of the child or other household member. If a determination is made that domestic abuse has occurred, the court shall set forth findings that the custody or visitation ordered by the court adequately protects the child, the abused parent or other household member.

Joint Custody – Definitions.

An award of joint custody means 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;
  3. The parents shall consult with each other on major decisions involving the child before implementing those decisions; that is, neither parent shall make a decision or take an action which results in a major change in a child’s life until the matter has been discussed with the other parent and the parents agree. If the parents, after discussion, cannot agree and if one parent wishes to effect a major change while the other does not wish the major change to occur, then no change shall occur until the issue has been resolved as provided in this subsection;
  4. The following guidelines apply to major changes in a child’s life:
    1. If either parent plans to change his home city or state of residence, he shall provide to the other parent thirty days’ notice in writing stating the date and destination of move;
    2. The religious denomination and religious activities, or lack thereof, which were being practiced during the marriage should not be changed unless the parties agree or it has been otherwise resolved as provided in this subsection;
    3. Both parents shall have access to school records, teachers and activities. The type of education, public or private, which was in place during the marriage should continue, whenever possible, and school districts should not be changed unless the parties agree or it has been otherwise resolved as provided in this subsection;
    4. Both parents shall have access to medical and dental treatment providers and records. Each parent has authority to make emergency medical decisions. Neither parent may contract for major elective medical or dental treatment unless both parents agree or it has been otherwise resolved as provided in this subsection; and
    5. Both parents may attend the child’s public activities and both parents should know the necessary schedules. Whatever recreational activities the child participated in during the marriage should continue with the child’s agreement, regardless of which of the parents has physical custody. Also, neither parent may enroll the child in a new recreational activity unless the parties agree or it has been otherwise resolved as provided in this subsection; and
  5. Decisions regarding major changes in a child’s life may be decided by:
    1. Agreement between the joint custodial parents;
    2. Requiring that the parents seek family counseling, conciliation or mediation service to assist in resolving their differences;
    3. Agreement by the parents to submit the dispute to binding arbitration;
    4. Allocating ultimate responsibility for a particular major decision area to one legal custodian;
    5. Terminating joint custody and awarding sole custody to one person;
    6. Reference to a master pursuant to Rule 53 [Rule 1-053 NMRA] of the Rules of Civil Procedure for the District Courts; or
    7. The district court.

-From 40-4-9 of the New Mexico Statutes.

Access to Records.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including medical, dental and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because that parent is not the child’s physical custodial parent or because that parent is not a joint custodial parent.

 

This information has been summarized from the New Mexico statutes. You can find the full-text version of these and other New Mexico divorce statutes online here: New Mexico Divorce Laws.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GENERAL CHILD CUSTODY LAWS.

GO TO ANOTHER DIVORCE ARTICLE.

 

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