Child Custody & Cohabitation Laws in New Mexico

By Joseph Scrofano
Children
children image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com

New Mexico child custody laws determine the parenting arrangement between divorced parents. The parent awarded custody (or "custodial parent") possesses certain rights with regard to decisions made for the child's health, care and welfare. For example, the custodial parent may make decisions about the child's education, health or religious activities. New Mexico courts may decide which parent is awarded custody based on the best interest of the child, of which the parent's cohabitation situation can be a factor. To find out how the specific facts of your situation applies to New Mexico law, please contact a qualified attorney licensed to practice in the State of New Mexico.

Definitions

Child custody in New Mexico can be a difficult concept. There are two types of "custody" that a court may award a parent. The first is "legal custody." Legal custody dictates which parent may make decisions about the child's life. The second type of custody is "physical custody." Physical custody determines where the child lives, for how long and what the respective parents' visitation rights are.

Parenting Plans

New Mexico is one of the few states where the courts presume that the parents should share "joint custody" of the child. This means the parents each have legal custody over the child. When parents agree about the child's physical custody, they may create a parenting plan. The parenting plan provides for where the child lives, for how long and what the other physical custodial arrangement will be.

Courts

If the parents dispute who should have legal or physical custody of the child, then they must have a New Mexico Court decide the custodial issues. Courts apply New Mexico custody laws, which are subject to change, when deciding which parent gets custody of the child.

Standard

While New Mexico courts have a presumption in favor of joint legal custody, the standard for making decisions on custody issues in New Mexico is the "best interest of the child." That means courts will not automatically award joint custody. If the court determines that it is not in the child's best interest to award joint custody, then they will not do so.

Factors

When determining what is in the best interest of the child, New Mexico courts look to several factors. One factor is the relationship with the parent, siblings or other significant family members. The parent's cohabitation situation can affect this factor. In other words, if the father's cohabitates with a new wife or girlfriend who does not get along with the child, that could negatively affect the father's ability to obtain custody. Other factors include the wishes of the parents, the child's wishes, the child's adjustment to each parents home, school and community and the mental and physical health of all involved parties.

About the Author

An attorney and founder of ScrofanoLaw, a general practice law firm in Washington, D.C., Joseph Scrofano has been writing on legal issues since 2008. He holds a Juris Doctor from the Washington College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts with special honors from the University of Texas and a master's degree in international affairs from American University's School of International Service.