Fathers are important to children. And if you’re reading this now, something is probably standing in the way of this. There’s so much information on the internet about what’s now become a marketing hook: Fathers’ Rights... Men’s Rights. Needless to say, many fathers feel helpless in court systems that seemingly favor the mothers, whether after a divorce, or if there was no marriage at all. But what law(s) are specifically written for fathers in the State of New Mexico? The answer is, none. There’s not a single law or statute that specifically addresses or names fathers as a special or protected class of individuals. But then again, mothers aren’t specifically named either. The law in New Mexico is written using the word “parent”. And herein lies an important consideration if you’re a father seeking representation in New Mexico especially since the courts here are blind to this label of “Fathers’ or Mens’ Rights – How do you find and choose the best attorney to represent you as a father?
Father Considering Legal Representation?
Here’s a list of points to consider if you’re a father in New Mexico needing legal representation:
- Don’t let your bias cloud your view and keep your emotions in check. So called “Father’s Rights” attorneys aren’t always the best choice. And it could be that a female attorney is better qualified and will fight more aggressively on your behalf. Intelligent, experienced female attorneys can be strong and passionate about winning your case! You’ll know one when you meet one. So interview attorneys before choosing.
- Male or female, choose an attorney that has a minimum of 5 years’ experience with cases just like yours. Ask them about this experience. If they don’t have it, move on.
- Ask about the attorney’s success in court and with negotiating. Winning your position while also avoiding court can save you significant money. Your attorney must have masterful negotiating skills especially if your “ex” has an attorney.
- Find an attorney that carefully listens to your side, and then gives you straight-up advice. No cloudy double talk – real strategies and the truth. If you want someone to tell you what you want to hear – it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll choose the wrong lawyer.
- Ask about what they think your chances of winning are and how much it costs. If the answer is fuzzy, reconsider choosing that attorney.
- Don’t plunk down your money without what’s called a Letter of Engagement. This is a written document that outlines what the attorney will, and will not do for you. Choose another attorney if this isn’t provided.
- Ask how your money is handled and how you are invoiced. If they don’t regularly provide written invoices and/or reports on the work being done on your case, this probably isn’t a good match.
FAQ’s for Fathers or Dads:
What if you didn’t know your girlfriend was pregnant and you’ve never even seen the child – do you owe for child support?
It’s very possible that you do. This might be a case where proving paternity is the first order of business. Then if it’s physically established that the child is yours, you’ll have to pay child support. The question is: Do you have to pay back child support and how far back?
What if the mother of your children has falsely alleged abuse or domestic violence to gain the advantage?
Sadly, this happens. And it’s horrible to live through. False accusations of this kind can begin with a police report, you receiving a temporary order of protection notice from the court; CYFD call, or a combination of actions.
Once you receive a temporary order of protection you’ll have a short time to respond. Don’t ignore this or wait to the last minute. It’s very important that you treat this seriously. Unfortunately, at this juncture it doesn’t matter if she’s falsely accused you. You have to defend your position either with, or without, an attorney. I’d advise hiring an experienced attorney. You get one shot and you need to know what to say and not say in court. If you’re representing yourself, it’s easy to get twisted, angry, or even tongue-tied. Get a professional to represent you. Often, you can be cleared at the first hearing and then it’s done.
Following a false accusation that is resolved in your favor, there are probably other issues you’ll need to address. Again, get solid legal advice. It’s worth noting that some family lawyers don’t do domestic violence or defense against orders of protection. Find an attorney that is familiar with this and all other matters related to your case.
If you never knew you had a child and discover that now you do – do you now have a right to visit the child?
If you’re the real bio-father, you have every right to be in your child’s life. And that includes regular visitation and decision-making. The mother can’t lawfully keep you out of the child’s life unless there is some safety reason for doing so. And even if you’re behind on child support – she cannot keep the children from you. The two issues are not linked in the State of New Mexico. If she’s blocking your access, court may be your only option.
Can a mother ask for “back child support” if you didn’t know the child was yours?
Yes, she can and the court can order you to pay it. The question is: How far back can it go?
Can the mother of your children move them out of state without your permission?
If you object to having your children moved away, even within the state – she does not have the right to arbitrarily do this against your objections. But you have to ask yourself the question: Are you objecting just to punish her and would it actually be beneficial to the kids to move? Sometimes the “ex” gets re-married and the new husband accepts a job out-of-state. Maybe the schools are better there for the kids. You should think about what’s best for the kids – not you. But, in most cases your consent is needed.
If your ex gets married, can the new husband automatically adopt the kids?
Nothing is “automatic” when it comes to your rights as a father. You would have to legally terminate your parental rights in order for another person to adopt your children. And that can’t happen without your written consent. Sometimes this is best for the children. But only you can make that decision. The new husband cannot override your parental rights.
What are your options if you’re paying child support and your income is reduced?
Pay changes happen all the time – both increases and cuts. The law allows you to make adjustments to the amount of child support you are paying, but you’ll have to prove this change.
Can your “ex” retaliate against you by withholding your visitation?
The mother of your children cannot retaliate against you by cutting off your visitation or communication with your children. New Mexico judges are very supportive of a father’s right to be in their children’s lives. Unless there is some compelling reason why the children should not be left alone with you, she cannot lawfully block visitation. You probably need a good, experienced attorney to advocate for you if this is happening.
If you’re not sure the child(ren) are yours – how do you prove it?
A genetic DNA test will prove whether you’re the biological father. If your “ex” is unwilling to voluntarily cooperate in this – the court will order her to comply.
If you’re not paying child support, can your “ex“ keep you from seeing the children?
She can – but it’s against the law. Child support and your involvement in the children’s life are not linked.
How can you enforce your parental rights?
If you’ve exhausted every avenue with your “ex” on your own – get a good attorney. Sometimes going to court is the only way. Family court is very different than other courts. Choose an attorney who practices exclusively family law with a minimum of five years’ experience.
If you don’t have a written “Parenting Plan”, can you get one?
Yes. If you and your “ex” are willing to work out the details and agree – you can draft your own written plan. There are samples on the internet to get you started or a good family law attorney can help you. A Parenting Plan is just a written agreement between both parents on how certain things will be handled. It can also change over time and probably should as the children grow older and their needs change.
Can your “ex” move the kids out-of-state (or the country) without your consent? Can she travel out-of-state or the country with the kids?
The mother of your children can not usually just “pick up the kids and go”. As the other parent, your consent is typically required. But much depends on whether you have an existing agreement or Parenting Plan that permits might permit this. Regardless, if you as the father believe that any move might not be in the best interest of your children, challenge it.