CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES
Whether as the result of a divorce or separation from your former partner, you will need to determine the legal and physical custody of your children together. Time with your children may also need to be split between you and the other parent. Changes in living situations, financial circumstances and a number of other factors can make child custody and visitation arrangements complicated. These agreements often need to be updated as children age, to ensure an appropriate and healthy arrangement that is in their best interest.
The attorneys at Terry & deGraauw, P.C. have experience handling a number of potential child custody and visitation issues, including:
- Visitation disputes
- Interstate child custody and visitation
- Sole custody vs. joint custody
- Physical custody
Our lawyers can help parents modify custody or timesharing schedules if there is a significant change in circumstances. Our attorneys have experience representing all parties who may have a stake in a child’s best interests — mothers, fathers, and grandparents.
In the event that child custody issues must be resolved in court, our attorneys put their extensive professional network to work for you. You will have access to child custody authorities who may provide expert testimony. Our attorneys have experience not only representing parents, but also representing children in contested custody cases. This experience allows us to prioritize your children’s best interests at all times.
JOINT LEGAL CHILD CUSTODY IN NEW MEXICO
Judges in New Mexico typically award parents joint legal custody of their children after a couple separates. The attorneys at Terry & deGraauw, P.C., can help you understand your rights and obligations concerning joint custody and child support in New Mexico. If you already reached a joint custody agreement and your circumstances have materially changed, you may request a modification in court. In Family Court, judges award two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody gives parents the right to make decisions about their child’s life in four main areas:
- Recreational Activities
- Non-Emergency Medical Care
Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right to make important decisions about education, religion, health care and other important concerns. Currently joint legal custody — also called shared parenting — is present in all 50 states, including New Mexico.
Physical custody determines who your children will live with.
CUSTODY & CHILD SUPPORT
Regardless of your custody arrangement, both parents are expected to share the financial responsibility of raising your children. How much you pay often depends on the time-sharing. If your children live with you most of the time, you are likely to receive child support from your former spouse; the opposite is true if your children live with your former spouse the majority of the time.
MODIFYING CUSTODY AGREEMENTS
Anytime there is a change of circumstances concerning you or your child, you may petition to modify an existing child custody agreement. In child custody modification cases, you will need to show the Court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances related to the well-being of the children. Often times you should first attempt to solve this through mediation, but if an agreement cannot be reached, you will be required to follow a judge’s order.
CHILD SUPPORT IN NEW MEXICO
After divorce or separation, a child should not lose the financial benefits of having two parents share a household, nor should one parent bear the sole financial responsibility for a child. Child support ensures that both parents equitably share the financial responsibility of raising a child.
HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED
Child support payments may be awarded to either parent of the child. In most cases, the recipient of child support is the parent who:
- Has primary physical custody of the child with the other parent having visitation less than 35% of the time
- Has physical custody of the child the majority of the time, calculated by the number of 24-hour days spent with each parent divided by 365
Child support payments may be abated if the payor has visitation periods that last longer than one month. Calculating child support can be complicated as there are a number of factors to be considered, such as:
- Child custody and visitation arrangements
- Alimony paid or received
- Age and medical needs of the child or children
- Health insurance coverage for the child or children
- Earning capacity of both parties
WHY YOU NEED A CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEY
Child support is often a contested issue during divorce or child custody proceedings. Although the payments are intended to meet the needs of the child or children, some parties feel these payments are additional income for the other parent. To minimize what they pay, they may hide assets or misrepresent their income.
An attorney’s help is invaluable when calculating child support payments. A child support lawyer can investigate a party’s financial affairs to ensure that the disclosed gross monthly income accurately reflects all eligible income and assets. A child support lawyer can also help a client justify a financial hardship in the event that calculated child support exceeds 40% of gross monthly income or modify existing child support orders in the event of substantial changes to circumstances.
STEPPARENT ADOPTION IN NEW MEXICO
A seasoned attorney can ensure that all legal requirements are met, and the necessary documentation is submitted so that your adoption process can go smoothly.
There are several situations that would encourage a stepparent to seek adoption of their stepchildren. These situations include:
- A stepchild with an uninvolved biological parent
- A child with a biological parent whose rights have been terminated because of abuse or neglect or
- A child who has a deceased biological parent
These cases can be complex, especially if the biological parent contests the adoption. In the case of Native American Indian children, federal laws may supersede state adoption laws.
Any person considering a stepparent adoption should retain an attorney as soon as they intend to begin the adoption process. Seeking legal counsel before beginning the actual adoption process will ensure that prospective parents:
- Understand the adoption process
- Are informed about the time requirements for filing applications and any other necessary documentation
- Have realistic expectations about the time and cost of the process
In the State of New Mexico, certain factors determine whether or not a stepparent can adopt stepchildren. Having an attorney early in the case will help you assess your likelihood of a successful adoption.
EXPERIENCE IN NEW MEXICO ADOPTION LAW
Child adoption allows you to expand your family and provide a safe loving home for a child who may not be biologically related to you. Adoption entails terminating the biological parents’ rights and bestowing them upon the adoptive parent.
The lawyers at Terry & deGraauw, P.C. are experienced in handling stepparent adoption cases. They possess an in-depth understanding of New Mexico and federal laws governing the termination and transferring of legal parental rights, so they can provide you with experienced counsel during the process by which you expand your family.
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