4 “Trouble At Home” Red Flags For Your Family Court Judge

Custody is a very sensitive and emotional matter for many parents. Whether you are getting a divorce or ending your relationship with your co-parent, you may find yourself in front of a judge if you and your co-parent cannot come to a custody agreement on your own. In this scenario, it is the judge who will ultimately decide how parenting time and custody will be handled.

The judge will consider many factors when it comes to deciding custody matters, including whether there is any trouble in your or your co-parent’s home. In New Mexico, the guiding principle is what is in the “best interests” of your children. Some of these can be indicators of that principle:

Problems at School

Any problems at school your child is having may indicate problems at home to the judge. This includes behavioral problems, constant tardiness, a decline in grades and school work not being completed and turned in on time. A change in a child’s performance at school often signifies a deeper issue with the child, which can be brought on by custody disputes or divorce. Poor grades or behavior in school can have a bearing on the judge’s decision on how to structure your custody arrangement.

Domestic Violence in the Home

Naturally, a family court judge would be very concerned by evidence of domestic violence in your home as this threatens your child’s safety and can be very harmful to children even if they are not the direct victims of domestic violence. Keep in mind that domestic violence isn’t limited to just physical acts. Emotional abuse and even damage to property can be forms of domestic violence and can have a serious impact on matters of custody. 

New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) Involvement

CYFD will become involved with a family if there are any allegations of child abuse or neglect. The term “neglect” includes the child not receiving proper medical treatment or care; the child being left alone at an inappropriate age; the parent failing to protect the child; and the placement of the child into dangerous situations. CYFD involvement is often considered strong evidence of a parent’s ability to care for their children.

Dangerous or Unstable People in the Home

In your case, the judge’s primary concern is the safety and well-being of your children. If you have a person in your home who the judge deems to be dangerous or not stable, you may essentially be guilty by association. These types of people can include those with untreated drug addictions, those with criminal histories or lifestyles that may negatively affect children. Parents should be careful about who they allow their children to be exposed to when going through custody disputes.

How Your Judge May Spot Problems in Your Home

Your child may be a source of information about trouble in the home, depending on their age. Although your child would not testify, a judge can gather statements from them in various ways, including an “in-camera interview” in certain circumstances. An in-camera interview is a private meeting between a child and the judge. 

If there are any allegations of alcohol or drug abuse in your case, the judge can order you to take tests to detect alcohol or drug use. Naturally, these results can have a serious impact on your case, so speak to your child custody in Albuquerque attorney right away if you have any concerns. You will not be able to hide test results from the court, so it is best to have your attorney guide you on what to do next.

All of the signs of home trouble that judges look for involve instability or dangerous activity, but this can show itself in other ways, too. If, for example, you are bouncing from home to home or unable to maintain steady employment, the judge may decide your home environment is unstable, which is not good for your child. Generally speaking, children need stability at home to feel safe and secure in their lives, so the judge will want to ensure they are in a stable home.

Work with your attorney if you feel as if the judge may believe there is trouble in your home. You can take steps to help improve your home situation and your standing in your custody case. Your attorney will help you decide which actions to take next to increase your odds of getting a more favorable outcome in your custody case.