ABQ Child Custody Lawyer

In 2013, a sea change occurred in American society. As of that year, according to the Pew Research Center, more than half of New Mexican children lived in “nontraditional” households with step siblings and/or a parent and stepparent, a single parent, an adopted parent, or a grandparent. Many movies and TV shows present the image of the seamless, blended family that has no major emotional or financial difficulties. For many households in New Mexico, the reality is much different.

It’s difficult, but certainly not impossible, to raise children in this environment, especially if you have a helping hand from a New Mexico child custody lawyer. Stepparent adoption and name change petitions give these families a greater sense of identity. Perhaps more importantly, a legal professional from Stratton Family Law crafts child custody orders that uphold the best interests of the children and also respect your legal and financial rights.

Evidence in a Child Custody Case

Frequently, blended family success begins with a solid divorce child custody order. Once this foundation is in place, it’s easier to build on it. As is the case with most legal matters, this foundation begins with solid evidence. As the evidence takes shape, family law litigants have a better idea where they stand, so they can make better decisions about their childrens’ futures.

School records and medical records make up much of the proof in a child custody case. Education records often indicate if a child has some special needs which a child custody order must address. School records also often form a before-and-after pattern, as in “when Junior lived with Parent A his grades were bad, and his grades improved when he lived with Parent B.” Doctor’s reports and other medical records often establish a similar pattern.

Additionally, Bernalillo County judges often order social studies in contested child custody cases. This study may be the most important bit of evidence in a case.

After a social worker reviews the file, this professional visits the home of each parent, interviews the principal parties, and otherwise investigates the facts. The report the social worker prepares isn’t binding in a legal sense, but it is extremely persuasive.

A New Mexico child custody lawyer controls the evidence collection process. Lawyers request medical and school records during discovery. As for the social study, an attorney ensures that the social worker fairly evaluates the case. Additionally, lawyers help clients prepare for the all-important home interview, so they make a good first impression.

Child Custody Factors

As mentioned, most child custody cases settle out of court. The judge usually approves these settlements without holding a hearing, provided they uphold some key child custody factors, such as:

  • Status Quo: Possession is nine-tenths of the law, according to an old saying. Frequently, when a parent files custody papers, an informal arrangement has been in place for several months, or even longer. If that arrangement is working, there’s a good chance a judge will officially approve it.
  • Child’s Preference: New Mexico judges must consider a child’s preference if the child is over 14. This consideration is discretionary if the child is younger. However, the judge always has the final say.
  • Domestic Violence: Verified allegations of prior physical, emotional, or other violence, especially if a child was a witness or victim, usually trigger mandatory reductions in terms of parent-child contact. Supervised visitation, at least temporarily, is the norm in these cases.

Emotional courtroom child custody showdowns benefit no one, at least in most cases. Therefore, almost all child custody matters settle out of court.

Possible Resolutions

The traditional every other holiday and every other weekend time sharing arrangement, which first became popular in the 1970s, is still the most common choice for unmarried parents in Bernalillo County. However, it’s not a perfect choice. Especially for older children with school activities, the arrangement is complex. Furthermore, it results in about a 70-30 time sharing split.

Many people don’t know that some recognized alternatives are available that address these concerns.

Block scheduling clears much of the confusion. Children spend a week or two with Parent A followed by the same period of time with Parent B. Then, the cycle repeats. Except for some adjustments around major holidays, this setup remains firmly in place all year. However, block scheduling usually only works if the parents get along well and live in the same ZIP code.

Extended weekends are a popular choice as well, even if the parents are farther apart and less cordial to each other. When weekends begin on Thursday night and end on Monday night, the time share distribution moves much closer to 50-50.

Different child custody arrangements are available for different families. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Albuquerque, contact Stratton Family Law. Virtual visits are available.