People in New Mexico who are beginning to contemplate the possibility of a divorce will have many questions, but the most critical by far for parents with minor children is, “What happens to the kids?” In recent posts, we have dealt with specific answers to this question. In this post, we want to provide an overview of the legal issues that may affect the children in a divorce.

The issues fall into two main categories: custody and support. Child custody involves questions of which parent will have physical custody of the children and arrangements for the non-custodial spouse to spend time with the children. The second category deals with payment of the children’s expenses, including allowances for food, clothing and shelter, medical expenses, educational expenses and other reasonable and necessary expenses.

New Mexico law provides tentative answers to these questions, but each divorcing couple must arrive at its own decisions. If they cannot, the court will decide. For example, New Mexico law creates a presumption that the children’s best interests are served by joint custody, that is, by having the two parents share custody. In many situations, however, such an arrangement will not work if one parent has been abusive or has abandoned the family. Similarly, the state has child support guidelines that set forth the monthly child support payment owed by the non-custodial parent to the parent who has custody of the children. Again, the guidelines may not be appropriate if one spouse has significantly more income or if one spouse suffers from a disability that limits his or her ability to earn money.

No two divorces with children are exactly alike, and each may require unique solutions to the questions of child custody and child support. Anyone who is contemplating a divorce and who is the parent of a minor child born during the marriage may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in divorce cases. An experienced family lawyer can suggest possible solutions to disputes between the parties, help in negotiating a settlement, and drafting necessary documents. And, of course, in cases where the parties are unable to agree, a knowledgeable family law attorney can effectively present his client’s side of the dispute to the judge.

Source: New Mexico Statutes Chap. 40, Domestic Affairs, accessed on Aug. 9, 2015