Visitation Rights of Outside Family Members After a Divorce

There are few matters that can make the divorce process more complex than child custody. When you’re not an immediate family member of a child, but still want to maintain your relationship with them, it can be nerve-wracking to watch the custody battle from the sidelines. Will you be granted visitation? Can a legal guardian deny visitation? Our article will cover these topics so you can confidently move forward with the newly divorced parents and their shared custody.

What is Child Visitation?

After a divorce, visitation. or timesharing, is the term used to define the rights of the non-custodial parent to see their child. Unless it’s counterintuitive to the child’s best interests, New Mexico prefers that both biological parents have shared custody or visitation rights because of the benefits it poses. A biological parent that doesn’t receive custody may be granted visitation rights to ensure that parent still builds a relationship with their respective child.

How Each Third Party is Affected by the Visitation Plan

When you’re related to one of the divorced parents, you may wonder if you are automatically entitled to any visitation time with the child, regardless of your relationship with them. The short answer is no. There are no automatic rights that family members have to children in custody situations or divorce. Typically, any visitation a family member will receive will be that granted to them by one or both of the parents. There are some exceptions, however:


The state of New Mexico has special statutes that clearly define whether or not grandparents may be granted visitation. Typically, grandparents may have visitation time with their grandchild if the parents are married and if one or both of the parents have died. There are other factors, however, that may allow grandparent visitation in a custody scenario which typically depend on whether or not special circumstances warrant visitation.

Step-Parents or other Family Members

If a parent remarried and a step-parent was brought into the picture then was divorced out of the family, that now former step-parent isn’t typically granted visitation, especially if both of their biological parents are still alive and reject that additional person’s visitation requests. Since the state of New Mexico doesn’t have any laws covering this subject, it may make applying for visitation rights very difficult, but not impossible. As with other relatives, visitation may be granted if the Court deems it to be in the best interest of the child. Generally, however, the wishes of the child’s biological parents will trump the desires of family members to have timesharing with a child and such timesharing is very unusual. However, special circumstances may arise depending on the relationship between the family member and the child.

Biological Parents When a Legal Guardian is Appointed

A legal guardian is often someone who isn’t one of the child’s biological parents that is appointed or granted by the Court the same rights and responsibilities over the child. Because this person is usually appointed because neither of the birth parents are alive or capable of properly parenting the child, they hold custody or visitation rights just as the biological parent would and are generally granted the discretion of whether or not to allow the biological parents contact with the child.

Can a Legal Guardian Deny Visitation?

The position of legal guardian comes with a variety of responsibilities that mirror that of a biological parent. While granted their appointment, they can deny visitation, make decisions, and act as a parent to the child as long as the Court deems it necessary. Legal guardians may not be able to deny visitation if the courts put certain terms in place for the birth parents to hold visitation time, and this only changes when the Court decides doing so is in the child’s best interests.

Only a qualified New Mexico child custody attorney can help advise you how to navigate the complexities of visitation and custody rights. If you’re a parent or legal guardian in the middle of a custody battle and you’re trying to fight for your child’s best interests, contact the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer to connect with the New Mexico child custody attorney that’s ready to help you. With one of our knowledgeable professionals on your side, you’ll be prepared to answer questions like “can a legal guardian deny visitation,” and “is this relative entitled to visitation?” Contact our team to get started today.