Overcoming Discrimination and Bias in Child Custody Cases in New Mexico

In New Mexico, the primary consideration of every child custody case is determining the arrangements that represent the best interests of the child in question. These cases can often become emotionally charged, and unfortunately, these emotions may sometimes influence a judge, predisposing them to unintentional discrimination or bias that can unfairly influence the outcome. 

Here is a look at how discrimination and bias can creep into child custody cases, what constitutes discrimination and bias, and the most effective strategies that are available to overcome these challenges to ensure that a fair and just custody determination is reached.

Understanding discrimination and bias

There are many ways in which discrimination and bias can manifest in child custody cases, and it is essential that they are identified at the earliest possible opportunity so they can be addressed effectively. Some common forms of discrimination and bias include:

Gender bias: Historically, courts across America have exhibited a bias favoring mothers in custody disputes. New Mexico law specifies that courts shall not favor a parent solely because of gender [1], but a judge may exhibit unconscious bias, particularly if the behaviors exhibited by the father affirm that judge’s personal experiences or societal stereotypes. 

Sexual orientation bias: In the case of a same-sex couple, the non-biological parent can be unfairly disadvantaged in custody arrangements, even if they have enjoyed joint parental rights since the birth of the child. Sexual orientation cases are particularly complex and must be handled on an individual basis as there is little case law upon which to base a determination.

Cultural bias: Cultural or racial biases may be present, particularly in interracial cases where a factor may include the extent to which the child’s adjustment in school or their local community could be affected by their race or cultural upbringing [2]. A cultural bias can unfairly impact the outcome of such cases, so it is essential that these issues are highlighted early. 

Socioeconomic bias: Although disparities in the income and living conditions of each parent should not be considered primary factors in determining child custody, they can inadvertently sway custody decisions, particularly when the ability of the lower-earning parent to adequately provide for their child is already in question or, more commonly, the ability to afford legal representation. 

Disability bias: In the state of New Mexico, judges are entitled to consider the physical and mental health of both parents when determining what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests. This has been proven on many occasions to be very difficult for disabled parents [3], so it is essential that parents afflicted with a mental or physical condition can prove they are able to adequately care for their child.

New Mexico’s legal framework

The primary concern of New Mexico’s legal framework for child custody cases is the well-being and welfare of the child. A court will evaluate a number of factors to arrive at a determination, including:

– The age and health of the child
– The child’s emotional attachment to each parent
– The ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment
– The extent to which the child is settled in their home, school and community
– Whether there is any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
– The child’s preference, if they are old enough

Overcoming discrimination and bias

When any of these factors exist in a child custody case or there is a concern that bias or discrimination of any kind may unjustly influence the outcome, individuals should ensure that they express these concerns to an attorney who focuses on family law in Albuquerque (https://kufferlaw.com/) so they can be aware of it and ready to address it if it arises.

Individuals should also maintain thorough records of all interactions and communications with the other parent. This will provide useful evidence of attempts to cooperate in addition to highlighting any discrimination or bias. Individuals should also build a compelling case that demonstrates their ability to provide a stable and loving environment for their child. They may wish to include character references, school records and any other documentation that they deem relevant.

If there is significant concern that a court may be influenced by discrimination or bias, reaching an agreement with the other parent outside of court may be a positive move. If it is difficult to communicate effectively without outside involvement, the couple might wish to consider mediation to help them arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.

Discrimination and bias have no place in child custody proceedings, and at the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer, we will support you in challenging stereotypes, advocate for you and your child’s best interests, and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your family.


[1] https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2006/nmrc/jd_40-4-91-e8e5.html
[2] https://www.jstor.org/stable/583642
[3] https://ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/Ch7