Emotions of divorcing parties often affect decisions involving minor children, making many child custody cases all out battles. The best interests of the child(ren) are often overlooked in the co-parents’ quests to be right or to win. Divorce and child custody does not have to be so contentious. Understanding how family law and courts work may help you to deescalate your child custody battle.
What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?
In all child custody cases, there are two types of custody:
- Legal custody refers to the rights of both parents to make decisions about their child(ren)’s medical care, education, religion and other issues affecting their welfare.
- Physical custody refers to where the child primarily spends his/her time.
Joint legal custody is the standard for most cases in the State of New Mexico, so physical custody is the issue in most child custody battles.
Is it possible to get sole legal custody?
While joint legal custody is the standard in most divorce cases involving minor children, it is possible for one parent to be granted sole legal custody. There are circumstances that must apply, such as a history of domestic violence, a parent’s inability to provide a safe and/or loving household, etc. The party seeking sole legal custody has the burden of demonstrating that these conditions are present.
What are options for resolving conflicts in child custody battles?
When child custody cases turn into battles between the parents, there are a number of options to help the parties create a mutually agreeable parenting plan. Conflict resolution options often involve the involvement of a neutral third party, such as:
- Mediator—this may be a lawyer, social worker or other party trained to help parties come to an agreement about child custody issues.
- Guardian ad litem—this is a lawyer assigned to the child(ren) to protect their best interests. Parents can agree to binding arbitration, which makes any of the guardian ad litem’s recommendations about child custody legally binding.
- Child custody evaluator—this is a PhD-level psychologist who interviews both parents and others involved in the child(ren)’s life to determine the best child custody situation.
The job of mediators, GALs and child custody evaluators is not to protect your best interests in a child custody battle. To protect your best interests, you need expert legal counsel.
The family attorneys at Patrick J. Martinez & Associates have years of experience with child custody battles. They can help you understand New Mexico child custody laws, outline your options and help you make decisions that best protect your relationship with your child(ren). Contact us to schedule a consultation at our Albuquerque, NM office.