Albuquerque Child Support Lawyer

Per the U.S Department of Health, “consistent emotional and financial support from both parents” is essential for healthy child development. In other words, these two things are connected. When children are more secure financially, they are more secure emotionally. That’s one purpose for child support payments. Additionally, child support elevates the children’s standard of living. They shouldn’t be punished, economically or otherwise, because of their parents’ divorce.

New Mexico’s child support guidelines, as outlined below, are presumptively reasonable in most situations. There’s a big difference between presumptively reasonable and conclusively reasonable. Nothing is settled until all the numbers are in. The possible consequences of child support nonpayment are significant. So, it’s important that an Albuquerque child support lawyer from Stratton Family Law thoroughly prepares in this area, so things get done right the first time.

Initial Determinations

In a few states, the child support guidelines are quite straightforward. But that’s not true in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is an income share state. Therefore, the complex guidelines take a number of factors into account, such as:

  • The number of children in the family, including step children,
  • Combined income of the parents,
  • Age of the children,
  • Time share arrangement, specifically the number of overnight visits for each parent,
  • Extracurricular activities, and
  • Unreimbursed health care expenses.

Speaking of health care, the obligor (person paying support) usually has a responsibility to cover the children on a group health care plan that meets certain requirements.

Combined income is usually the most important factor. There’s often a difference between net income for tax purposes and net income for child support purposes. Only some deductions are allowable under New Mexico family laws.

Generally, the child support obligation ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school. The parents may voluntarily agree to divide college costs. A New Mexico child support lawyer plays a big role in this process, since there are many moving parts. Housing is a good example. Will the child live at home, share a dorm room, live alone in an apartment, or is something else better? The best interests of the child, not the preference of a child or parent, determine the course of action.

Whatever decisions the parents make, they should get them in writing. Only judge-approved court orders are enforceable. If the parents make a verbal or written agreement outside court, either party may break it at any time without any consequences.

Enforcement Matters

Less than half of obligees (people entitled to child support payments) receive their full allotments. Therefore, child support enforcement actions are very common in New Mexico. The state Attorney General has the legal authority to enforce child support orders. But the wheels of justice turn slowly in the state capitol building. Additionally, the Assistant Attorney General assigned to an enforcement case represents the state. S/he doesn’t represent your family.

Therefore, obligees who are owed support often get better results when they partner with a private Albuquerque family law attorney. Some general options include:

  • Low Impact: Frequently, when obligors fall behind on payments, they want to do the right thing and catch up. Letters from lawyers often get obligor’s attention and spur them into action. Additionally, a polite but firm letter from a lawyer is a lot less threatening than state action. So, there’s no need to worry about throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire.
  • Medium Impact: A payment plan, coupled with an upfront payment, often fits the bill in these cases. Usually, the parties both sign a joint motion which includes the revised payment terms. A property or credit lien could be a good option as well. The obligor must address such liens eventually.
  • High Impact: A full range of tools, like wage garnishment, are available to private lawyers. Under state law, obligees may garnish up to 50 percent of an obligor’s income. Incarceration is available as well. No one wants to see an obligor go to jail, unless everything else has failed.

Obligors have rights in this area as well. Many obligors make informal payments which the state doesn’t recognize.

Subsequent Modifications

Financial and other circumstances change frequently. If the change is substantial, permanent, and unexpected, a judge may move the amount of child support up or down.

Substantial changes usually involve income changes. Typically, a 10 percent income change, up or down, is a substantial change. Anything less might not support a change.

Permanent changes often affect self-employed people. Brief income spikes and drops are par for the course. Before a judge permanently modifies the support order, the moving party must generally show a months-long pattern of lower or higher income.

Typically, when a judge modifies a child support order, increases are retroactive to the date of change. Decreases usually aren’t retroactive at all.

Proper child support payments are essential to a family’s emotional health. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Albuquerque, contact Stratton Family Law. We routinely handle matters in Bernalillo County and nearby jurisdictions.