How to Obtain Child Custody in New Mexico

••• mother and daughter image by Mat Hayward from

Parents can obtain a court order for child custody through the New Mexico courts, if the two parents cannot cooperatively follow an informal agreement. If the parents are married to each other, child custody and visitation become issues if they file for divorce or legal separation. If the parents are not married, the father must establish his paternity through a parentage action before he can ask the court for custody rights. Under New Mexico law, the court must always prioritize the best interests of the children.

Proceed with the paperwork for your divorce or parentage action. In a divorce case, use the New Mexico State Judiciary's form, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (With Children), which is required by the state for separating parents with minor children. Identify all minor children that you have together and list their names, birth dates and addresses for the past five years. State in your petition that you will submit a parenting plan.

Negotiate the terms of your parenting plan with the other parent, if it might be possible for you to work together respectfully on your own or with the help of lawyers. Discuss your preferences for legal custody, which refers to the right to make parenting decisions, and physical custody, which describes the child's living arrangements. Attend mediation if ordered to do so by the court or if you believe it would help with your negotiations.

Prepare a parenting plan by following instructions from the New Mexico State Judiciary or the state district court overseeing your case. Include the court file number from your divorce or parentage case. Complete all sections of the parenting plan to reflect your preferences for legal custody, physical custody and parental visits. Note your agreed-upon arrangements for child transportation, vacations, holidays, emergencies, conflict resolution, communication and any other child custody issues.

Proofread your completed parenting plan, but do not sign the document until you and the other parent can both do so in front of the court clerk or another notary public. File the parenting plan with the appropriate state district court and follow any further instructions from the court clerk.


  • Learn about the rights and responsibilities of parents under New Mexico law by consulting with a local attorney. Educate yourself about how a New Mexico parenting plan affects your child support obligations. Consider filing a legal motion to ask for a child custody modification if you already have a court order but would like a change.


  • Keep your child's well-being in mind as you negotiate with the other parent for child custody rights. Follow your current parenting plan until the court has approved an updated or modified plan.



About the Author

Cindy Chung is a California-based professional writer. She writes for various websites on legal topics and other areas of interest. She holds a B.A. in education and a Juris Doctor.

Photo Credits

  • mother and daughter image by Mat Hayward from