Addressing Child Neglect in New Mexico Custody Cases

Child custody cases in New Mexico tend to be some of the most sensitive cases in family court, and this is especially true if the child in question is being neglected by one parent while in their care. Even the most devoted parents can be concerned and confused about what to do when they believe their co-parent is neglecting their child.

Since child neglect is a very serious allegation to make, you have to do more than tell the court your co-parent is neglectful when you are seeking to get custody or change a current custody agreement. If you have not already done so, contact a family law attorney immediately to help you with your neglect case. You can help your attorney by ensuring your co-parent is actually guilty of neglect in a legal sense and by gathering evidence.

What Constitutes “Neglect” Legally?

While this seems straightforward, some more attentive parents may believe acts they do not agree with or differences in parenting styles are examples of neglect. Actual neglect means the child is not receiving something necessary for their health, safety and/or well being. Although it’s not an exhaustive list, neglect includes the acts listed below.

.       Failure to provide sufficient and proper food
.       Failure to give the child sufficient clothing for the current weather
.       Failure to ensure the child is regularly attending school or receiving their education
.       Failure to provide needed surgical or medical treatment
.       Failure to provide a proper, safe and clean living environment
.       Failure to allow or do any act that is needed for the child’s physical or mental health

It is very important that you are certain or have strong reason to believe your co-parent is neglecting your child. If you are found to have made a false allegation in court–regardless of how much you may have believed it–you could face serious consequences and even jeopardize your own parenting time with your child.

Of course, your child is absolutely the priority in this situation, so if you believe they are being neglected and it is a serious risk to their well being, contact the New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD) to report it and speak to a family law attorney for help. If your report meets the department’s criteria, they will open an investigation into the matter. If your child is at risk of being harmed or has already been harmed by the neglect, they will very likely decide to remove the child from your co-parent’s care immediately. This could mean the child will stay with you while the investigation takes place.

What Type of Evidence is Used in a Neglect Case?

Any evidence of neglect discovered by CYFD can be used in your custody or custody modification case. You should also document any instances of neglect you observe. If, for example, your co-parent returns your child to you and it is obvious they have not bathed or had clean clothes for days while they were out of your care, you can write down the date and time of the incident and any details associated with it. You can also take photos or a video of your child in that state, but be sure not to do so in a way that alarms them. Instead, you can tell them you missed them and want a funny video or photo of them now that they are back home with you. If you have any witnesses to the neglect, you can pass on those names to your attorney and/or the authorities involved as well.

It’s important to note that if you ever feel as if your child is at risk of immediate harm with your co-parent, you should contact the police immediately.