Albuquerque Family Attorneys
Wherever there is family, there are disputes.
Wherever there are disputes, there are solutions.
Whether you’re seeking a divorce or resolution to another legal issue involving your family in Albuquerque, our family law focus will help you work towards the results you’re looking for.
For many people, a family law matter is the first time they have needed to investigate legal matters or search for a lawyer to work with.
The following information will help you understand more about the legal matter concerning you and steer you in the right direction for getting the assistance you need.
What is Family Law?
Family law is a specific practice area that focuses on family relationships and the legal matters involved in issues and disputes between family members.
It takes a special type of lawyer to be able to assist with these matters. Emotions nearly always run deep with family relationships and legal matters can be more complex because of this.
Family lawyers not only need to be across all the legal requirements; they often need to be excellent mediators as well as compassionate human beings who understand the depth of the issues at stake.
Which areas does family law cover?
Family law usually encompasses the following areas:
- Divorce: attorneys help you divide marital property, calculate spousal support, and propose a plan for the care of the children (if applicable)
- Child custody and child support: after a divorce, the court orders or settlement agreements for child custody or support may need modifying due to a change of circumstances for one or both parents.
- Paternity: Mothers or fathers may file for paternity in order to secure payments or to justify a relationship with a child.
- Adoption or foster care: a family law attorney will help you navigate the complex process of adoption or fostering a child.
Bear in mind that family law also interacts with other practice areas, such as estate planning (wills, trusts, etc.) or criminal law (in the case of domestic violence cases).
The family court system ensures that victims are protected and a safe environment can be guaranteed for parties who feel threatened.
Can a family lawyer represent you in court?
For example, in any divorce case, an appearance in court is usually required. Your lawyer may attend on your behalf.
A family lawyer can act as a mediator and help draft necessary documentation. Then, if the divorce goes to trial, your lawyer can represent you in court too.
What is Child Custody?
When a marriage breaks down and children are involved, the situation can become extremely complex.
In fact, child custody battles are some of the most intense and exhausting of all trials.
The needs of the children come first in the eyes of the law and any discussions and agreements between divorcing parties must bear this important fact in mind.
It can be difficult to see things clearly when emotions are running so deep. That is why the guidance of a professional family law attorney can be of such great value.
What will the court decide with child custody?
The court will always aim to provide the child(ren) with the best possible outcome.
They will take a look at both parties and consider:
- The relationship between all parties involved
- How suitable each parent is to raise the child(ren)
- The physical and mental health of all parties involved
- The incomes of each parent
- The living arrangements that will best suit the child(ren)
- The past history of both parents
- The wishes of the children (and the parents)
- How much time the child(ren) should spend with each parent
- Whether full custody should be provided to one parent or not.
Such judgments often bring out details that are difficult for parents to talk about. This is partly why it can be such an emotionally draining experience.
Sole custody or joint custody?
In Albuquerque, the family court usually prefers joint custody (50-50) though this does not mean that each parent will spend 50 percent of the time with the child(ren).
It means that both parents have equal input into the key decisions for raising the child(ren).
If joint custody is awarded, both parents are free to arrange a mutually acceptable schedule that is in the best interests of the child(ren).
The court will deny any plan or agreement that is deemed to be counter to the best interests of the child.
Sole custody is much rarer and means that one parent is given the ability to make decisions regarding the upbringing of the child, with no input required from the other parent.
Click here to learn more about Child Custody.
Family Law and Child Support
Child support arrangements are a separate consideration to child custody. They determine how much one parent will provide to the other for the purpose of raising the child(ren).
Whatever is decided in terms of child custody will usually affect the family court’s decision on the amount of child support to be paid.
This will be a legally-binding financial arrangement that applies until an amendment is made or the child turns 18 years of age (the “age of majority”).
How will the court come to a decision?
Before making its decision, the court will consider:
- Who has been granted custody of the child (ren)?
- The finances of both parents
- The employment situation of both parents
- Normal expenses involved in raising the child
- Other expenses such as medical expenses, insurance, etc.
In a full-custody case, the non-custodial parent will have to pay the custodial parent.
In a joint custody case, finances are usually split more evenly between the two parents.
However, one parent may find that they’re still ordered to make payments to the other.
Click here to learn more about Child Support.
Guardian Ad Litem
Cases that involve determining how a child or children will be handled through a divorce, separation or any other issue that affects their welfare are treated very seriously by the family court.
The court process will likely appoint a person called a guardian ad litem (GAL) to your case.
This person will be tasked with investigating all aspects of the living situation in order to recommend what is best for the child.
A GAL will help determine:
- Where the child will be best supported (the full-time home)
- Whether they are being properly cared for by the custodial parent
- Whether or not there is any drug use or abuse that affects the child’s safety
- The level of contact the child should have with each parent
How will you work with a guardian ad litem?
If a GAL has been assigned to your case:
- You may be asked some questions about your relationship with your child
- They may simply observe your interactions with your child or children at a predetermined time
- They may ask your children questions
- They may speak with family members
- They may research your history of criminal incidents, drug abuse or anything else that might affect the safety of the child.
You should provide all the cooperation required of you in these cases.
What is the guardian ad litem looking for?
The GAL is tasked with determining what the “best interests of the child” are.
This includes factors such as:
- Parental responsibility for education, medical attention, and overall wellbeing at home
- The safety of the child (especially if there is any evidence of a parent’s drug use, alcoholism, addiction, or abusive tendencies)
In summary, the GAL will be looking for anything to indicate that the child will be in a healthy and stable situation with the parent.
Can you dispute the findings of the guardian ad litem?
If you disagree with the findings of the GAL following their investigation, it is possible to raise an objection.
This will mean working with an attorney to dispute their findings and explain things from your own position to the court.
An attorney will help you completely address all of the legal issues that you disagree with and push for the outcome you feel is most appropriate.
Kinship guardianship, also known as kinship care, is a form of child protection and can be a great option for family members — or in some cases, close friends — to take custody of a minor.
There are many different requirements that must be met, and proven in New Mexico family court, in order to have your request approved by a judge. The court system (rightfully) puts an extensive burden of proof on the family member requesting custody, in order that they are positive the child is better off moving.
What Is Kinship Guardianship?
In some cases, members of a family may think that a child or children are not getting the proper care they need from their custodial parent(s). In these cases, family members such as grandparents, godparents, or even close family friends, may petition a court for kinship guardianship. If approved, the family member or close friend will take guardianship of the child.
How Can I Be Approved For Kinship Guardianship?
There are a series of things that need to be considered and addressed through this process:
1. Parents Have a Right To Raise Their Children
First and foremost, the New Mexico courts know and support the legal argument that a parent (or parents) have a right to raise their own children. With this as the foundational point of the entire process, you must be able to prove that the parents are unable to exercise this right while giving the child the care they deserve.
2. Children Have a Right To Safety and Support
While parents have the rights to raise their children, this right comes with the understanding that they must provide adequate support and safety to the child in their custody. This is the right that you will be focusing on when making your argument for taking custody.
3. It Must Be Proveable That The Circumstances Justify Kinship Guardianship
In order to prove that the child needs to be placed in a different home, you must be able to achieve the following:
- The custodial parents consent to the change in custody; or
- The parents have lost their rights to custody
- The child (but not parents) have lived with the person requesting guardianship for at least 3 months
- The custodial parents are unable to provide the support necessary for the child
- The person requesting guardianship is fit to take on the responsibilities of raising the child
Should I Apply For Kinship Guardianship?
This is a question that can only be answered with specific knowledge of your situation. If you believe that a child in your family is being mistreated, or is otherwise not receiving the necessary care from their parent(s), contact us today to discuss your options. The decision to seek kinship care is a very important, and oftentimes stressful decision to make but is extremely important when the safety of a child is at stake.
How to Protect Yourself with Prenuptial Agreements
If you’re engaged to be married, have built up considerable assets, and wish to protect these from a future claim against you in a divorce, you may opt for a prenuptial agreement.
Such agreements used to be relatively rare but have become more common as more people tend to get married later in life when they have already accumulated assets.
A properly drawn up prenuptial agreement is a legal document recognized by the family court.
It can protect your wealth by establishing clear guidelines and boundaries while also respecting the rights of both spouses.
To create a legally binding prenuptial agreement requires a family law attorney who is experienced in these types of agreements.
What’s included in a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement ensures the safety of existing assets and anticipates the possible division of property and assets in the event of a future separation or divorce,
Some of the key areas commonly detailed in prenuptial agreements are:
- The debt obligations to which each spouse will be held
- The rights to the property for each spouse
- Retirement benefits, pensions, and life insurance proceeds
- How the division of property will take place should a spouse become deceased or in the event of a divorce.
Click here to learn more about prenuptial agreements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Family Law?
Family law refers to any legal proceedings that are matters of a family. Most common, family courts handle issues of divorce and all of the factors that come along with it, including alimony, custody, child support, and asset division.
Family law courts and family law attorneys work to arrive at decisions and agreements that are positive or fair for families, as opposed to simply arriving at a legal decision that does not take children, spouses, or other family members into consideration.
Do I Need a Family Law Attorney?
If you are dealing with any sort of family issues that will require legal decisions and agreements, it is likely in your best interest to hire a family law attorney. Legal Solutions of New Mexico offers an initial consultation specifically to answer this question.
In your initial consultation you will be able to speak with a family law attorney from Albuquerque to discuss the specifics of your situation, and understand the approach they suggest based on their experience with family law.
Can I Collect Child Support?
If you will have majority custody of your children, it is likely that you will qualify for child support from your spouse. Child support payments ensure that the children do not lose financial support because of the divorce. Child support includes things like school tuition, sports and activities, medical payments, and more.
During the process of meeting with your family law attorney, you will go through all available information and financial documents to determine a fair and reasonable amount of child support that you are entitled to, or determine an amount that is reasonable for you to pay.
How do I change child support payments?
Sometimes, when the personal circumstances of the parents change, so can obligations with regard to child support payments.
However, it doesn’t just happen. Modifying child support arrangement requires going through another court process.
In order to justify a change, you will need to demonstrate that there is a material and substantial change in circumstances and that these changes will be ongoing.
The normal justifications are changes to:
- The number of overnights for each parent
- The incomes of one or both parents
- Expenses paid, such as daycare or medical expenses for the child(ren)
Arranging a change to child support will require the assistance of your family law attorney, who will help by:
- Checking that there are sufficient grounds for changing child support payments
- Reaching agreement on proposed changes to child support with the other parent
- Taking it to the court to request the modification
- Letting the court decide whether the changes are justifiable
If the court agrees, a modification will be made and it will become legally binding.
New Mexico has its own set of Child Support Guidelines that the court will follow to reach its decision.
How can I change custody access?
It’s possible to change custody access if the present custody or visitation arrangements no longer work for one or both parents.
Changes can be made at any time if there is justification to do so. However, any changes need to be approved by the court.
In New Mexico, there are two main scenarios possible:
- The parents both consent to modifications and a motion and proposed order is filed for the court to consider before the changes are sealed in a final order.
- The parents do not agree about the changes (even with the help of mediation) and a motion is filed for the court to review the situation and make a decision.
Because of potential complexities with making modifications, it’s best for your attorney to represent your interests in the matter.