Child custody and visitation tend to be two of the most serious aspects of a New Mexico legal separation or divorce case. Emotions run high when it comes to the children, and both parents may have different ideas about what will be best for the kids, both in the short term and over the long run. The path of your child custody case may be fairly predictable at the start of the process, but you can still run into trouble if you lose sight of the importance of your custody agreement and all those related issues.
You can, however, work to make your custody and visitation case run as smoothly as possible while minimizing stress on all of those involved, particularly when you avoid making the three common mistakes seen in these types of cases and outlined below.
Having a lawyer who is too aggressive
When you’re starting out with your divorce or hit a snag, it’s only natural to be emotional and want to hire the most aggressive attorney you can find. It’s a common misconception that the more aggressive a lawyer is in a case – the “pit bull” image – the better your result will be in your custody and divorce case. This, however, isn’t true. A lot of research into custody and divorce cases shows that it’s the child who suffers the most when a divorce case is full of animosity. The less aggression in your case, the better it will be for your kids. Especially if that aggression comes from your attorney.
On top of the negative impact it could have on your kids, when an attorney starts your case with an aggressive attitude, it could take working cooperatively with your spouse right off of the table. This isn’t good for you, either. If you can’t come to agreements with your spouse, your case will become more expensive and could drag out longer than it would have if the two of you were able to work together. In addition, if you don’t agree on the major issues and end up having to go to court and have a judge decide, you’re less likely to be satisfied with the outcome.
Not understanding the “best interests” concept
In New Mexico, the law presumes parents will have joint custody of the children unless some special circumstance applies, such as past instances of child abuse involving one of the parents. The legal standard the court uses in custody cases is known as the “best interests of the child” standard. All negotiations involving child custody need to focus on this all-important factor, which involves the state of the parent-child relationships, the level of involvement each parent has in the child’s life, and other concerns. Custody cases are usually approached with the idea that children should have meaningful relationships with both parents, so you’ll want to approach your discussions with your spouse with that idea in mind.
Bringing the children directly into the case
Although it concerns them, your children shouldn’t be involved in the goings-on in your custody case. Thanks to the media, many people believe that children often speak to a judge directly about which parent they want to live with, but in reality, that’s not common. You never want your children to feel as if they have to choose between their parents, whom they both love. For this reason and many others, it’s best to have custody issues, parenting plans and visitation schedule discussions and determinations handled by the parents without the child’s direct involvement.
There’s a lot on the line in child custody and visitation cases, and your case will be best served when you work to keep the focus on what’s best for your kids.