How Child Custody and Support Work in New Mexico

As you consider your New Mexico custody case, you may be wondering just how custody will impact child support. Specifically, if you and your spouse have joint custody, is child support still paid?

To answer this question, you will need to learn a bit more about how child custody and support work in this state.

What is Physical Custody?

It’s sometimes impossible for a child to spend the same amount of time with each parent after they separate. While both parents do have the same right to spend time with their children in most situations, the child normally lives with one parent while the other has parenting time, or visitation rights. There are various physical custody arrangements, and the right arrangement for your family depends on various factors, including your proximity to your spouse, where your children go to school, their ages and other factors.

What is Legal Custody?

In short, legal custody will determine who makes the big decisions for your children. This includes decisions about their residence, education, religious training, medical treatment and more. In New Mexico, there is a presumption that it is best for the child when parents share legal custody as the input of both parents is considered when the important decisions are being made.

The court will consider many factors when determining child custody. If there is an ongoing history of physical or substance abuse on the part of one parent, for example, the court may decide the other parent should have sole legal custody.

Is Child Support Still Ordered with Joint Custody?

In general, child support is paid even with a joint custody arrangement. While the child custody decision will impact the child support calculation, there are other factors affecting this calculation as well.

In New Mexico, support calculations are based on the state’s support guidelines. These guidelines stay in place regardless of which parent has the child living with them or makes the major decisions for them. The largest factor in determining child support is the income of both parents. These are usually not equal, so one parent must pay support to the other. The other factors considered include some of the child’s costs, such as daycare for a working parent and the child’s health insurance coverage.

Even if both parents share joint legal and physical custody and spend roughly an equal amount of time with the children, it’s still usual for child support to be paid because of the variable factors mentioned above.

Are the Guidelines Set in Stone?

The clear guidelines set out in New Mexico law are there because the state wants to ensure that children are supported and parents are consistently treated. The right of child support essentially belongs to the child and not the parent who is receiving it.

While a judge does have some discretion when they make a child support order, it’s wise to stick to state guidelines if you and your spouse are currently trying to work out child support on your own. Keep in mind that reaching out to an attorney can be very helpful here. If you must deviate from the guidelines, you need to be able to explain to the court why following the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust in your case.

It’s important to note that, in some cases, child support can be modified later if circumstances change. Speak to an attorney if you believe your current order needs to be changed.

Child custody and support are complex areas of New Mexico law. If you have a child custody or support issue, reach out to an experienced attorney for help.