The relationship between a grandparent and grandchild can be one of the strongest and most meaningful familial connections in a lifetime. But what if someone tries to come between a grandparent and grandchild?
Under New Mexico law, grandparents may file for visitation or custody of their grandchildren under certain limited circumstances. An overview of New Mexico grandparents’ rights can benefit any grandparent who may become involved in a custody or visitation dispute.
Grandparents May Seek Custody Or Visitation Only Under Limited Circumstances
Child custody involves the right to make important decisions on behalf of a child (where the child will go to school, what sort of religious instruction the child will receive, etc.) and the right to tend to the day-to-day care of the child (in other words, to live with the child). Visitation, on the other hand, is simply the right to spend time with the child, sometimes subject to certain conditions.
New Mexico law specifically gives a grandparent the ability to ask a court for custody or visitation. However, a New Mexico court will only consider granting grandparent custody or visitation under very limited circumstances.
A grandparent’s petition for custody may be granted if the grandparent has assumed a parental role in the child’s life, with the child residing primarily with the grandparent for a set period of time. In addition, grandparents may petitions for custody if the child’s parents have died. Finally, if the parents are alive but unavailable to care for the child, the grandparents may seek custody.
When it comes to grandparent visitation, there are also prerequisites. A grandparent may seek visitation if the legal parents are divorced or are getting divorced, if the child was born outside of marriage and the parents are not currently married to one another, or if one of the parents is deceased.
Court Will Look To Best Interests Of The Child In Determining Custody And Visitation
Of course, simply meeting the minimum standards to proceed with a grandparent custody or visitation case does not guarantee ultimate success. While the chief focus is the best interests of the child, courts are also very deferential to the wishes of the legal parents unless there are compelling reasons to circumvent these wishes.
In making grandparent visitation decisions, a court can analyze many factors such as:
• The child’s relationship to his or her grandparents
• The reasons the grandparents are filing a petition for visitation and the motivations of anyone objecting to a grant of visitation
• Any potential effect of the proposed visitation schedule on the child’s normal routine
• The possible benefits of extended family being involved in the child’s life
Contact A Lawyer For Help
If you are a grandparent and you want a legally enforceable right to see your grandchild, or if you want to help your grandchild by pursuing full custody, you need to get in touch with an experienced New Mexico family law attorney. Meeting the prerequisites to file for custody or visitation is only the first step; you also need to present a compelling legal argument to sway the court in your favor. Talk to a family law attorney today to begin building your case.