Routes to Single Parenthood

Through choice or circumstance, many people in New Mexico and beyond are raising children by themselves. Here is a look at some of the ways in which people typically find themselves single parenting a child and the legal implications of doing so.

1. Single by choice

People who either have not found the right partner with whom to have a family or who are happily single have two routes through which they can become a parent: adoption and assisted reproduction.

Adoption is the means by which a single person can bring a child into their home, gaining legal parentage in the process. There are many legal steps involved in this process. In addition, prospective parents must meet specific criteria, including financial assessments and background checks, to determine whether they are appropriately positioned to parent a child.

Once an adoption is legally approved by the court, the individual will receive an official adoption decree and the child’s birth certificate will be updated to reflect the name of their new parent.

Assisted reproduction typically takes two forms. A woman can seek a sperm donor and use his semen to become pregnant. This process is usually conducted via a fertility clinic to ensure that the safety of the mother is prioritized at all times and that the health of the embryo is regularly monitored throughout the pregnancy.

Alternatively, if a man wishes to become a father, he may seek a surrogate to carry his child. He will either need the surrogate to use her eggs for the purposes of him achieving parenthood, or use the services of a fertility clinic to obtain a donor egg that can be fertilized by his semen and implanted in the surrogate, making him biologically connected to the child that will result from this process.

Paternity in regards to assisted reproduction in New Mexico is regulated in part by Section 7-704 of the New Mexico Uniform Parentage Act [1], however achieving legal parenthood can be more complicated than the statute suggests. It is strongly recommended by all firms practicing family law in Albuquerque ( that prospective parents obtain legal advice prior to beginning the adoption or assisted reproduction process to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the process are clearly defined and that the correct process is followed to establish parental rights.

2. Unplanned pregnancy in a single person

Sometimes, a sexual encounter results in an unplanned pregnancy without a willing or involved second parent. This can lead to an interesting legal scenario where the mother must decide whether to raise the child as a single parent or pursue the father for child support or other involvement. The mother must decide carefully on the level of involvement that she wants from the father as legally recording him as having parental responsibility potentially entitles him to visitation and an equal opportunity to contribute to his child’s life.

If she decides to involve the father in his child’s life, she will first need to establish paternity. This can be court ordered or the proposed father can agree he is the biological father of the child. Once a biological connection is established, the child will benefit from the inheritance rights and financial support of two parents.

3. Single by divorce

19.75% of New Mexico marriages end in divorce [2], and this often results in children being raised in a single-parent home. Child custody is determined based on a number of factors, including what is in the best interests of the children. The state of New Mexico encourages joint custody arrangements wherein the children spend time with both of their parents. However, in some circumstances, a court will grant sole custody to one parent.

4. Widows

When a spouse passes away, their surviving spouse becomes a single parent and is responsible for raising their children alone. It is essential that estate planning is carried out when both parties are fit and healthy to ensure that adequate provision is made for the surviving partner and any dependents. 

5. Single and appointed as a guardian

If a child’s biological parents are unable to care for a child effectively, a court may appoint a legal guardian to assume parental responsibilities. In this way a single person may become a de-facto parent for a child that is not receiving adequate care. Guardianship may be temporary or permanent, as ordered by the court based on the circumstances of the biological parents and the best interests of the child. 

It is crucial that any individual facing the prospect of single parenthood seeks appropriate legal advice to navigate this situation and arrive at a solution that allows them to provide a stable and loving home for the children in their care. At The Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer, we are dedicated to finding the best legal solution for your family and will work with you to achieve this outcome.