How Long Will My Case Take and How Much Will It Cost?

These are the two most commonly asked questions but there are no simple answers to either of them. The degree of co-operation between the four primary players (the parties and their attorneys) makes all the difference. Include things can move as rapidly as common sense dictates. However, any one of the four players can slow things down. Attorneys are paid for the hours they work on the case, not the days that go by on the calendar. If the parties cannot cooperate and many trips to court are needed, the process can easily take a year or more and cost substantial sums. If custody of minor children is at issue, there are often other professionals brought in to help as the New Mexico courts want to see custody resolved as soon as possible The sooner it’s done, the less difficult it is on the children.

Attorneys take retainers to start a case, and will usually expect regular payments during the pendency of a case. If one spouse earns substantially more than the other does, it’s possible, but unlikely, that the higher earner will pay fees to the other attorney. Working cooperatively to a mutually satisfactory result, if successful, will be significantly faster and less costly than traditional litigation.

What is the Difference Between Joint and Sole (Full) Custody?

The courts favor and the majority of couples agree upon joint legal custody. In these cases, the parents must agree to work together to agree upon major child rearing topics: education, medical care, religious training, activities, and life-style choices. A parenting plan is drafted which outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parents. Periods of responsibility (visitation) are exercised by the parents according to an established schedule that is designed to accommodate the needs of the children and the parties and should be flexible enough to allow for children’s activities and temporary adjustments for special events

Sole custody, often referred to as “full” custody, means the custodial parent with sole custody does not have to discuss the children’s issues with the other parent before making major decisions. However, contrary to popular belief, the parent with sole custody may not permanently take the children outside the area to live without the other parent’s consent or an order of court.

The non-custodial parent is still entitled to frequent and regular periods of responsibility (visitation) with the children. The parent with sole custody may remove the children to live outside the area without the other parent’s consent or an order of court.

All couples with children in divorce or paternity cases are referred to mediation to develop a parenting plan in the children’s best interests. Unless the parents file their own parenting plan with the court, mediation is mandatory.

How Are Children Affected by High Conflict Between Their Parents?

The restructuring of family life necessitated by dividing families involves multiple and complex adjustments for children. This often elevates the risk of poor childhood outcomes across the psychological, social, health and academic aspects of their lives, even into adulthood. Ongoing parenting conflict after separation and divorce further increase the nature and magnitude of developmental risk for children.

Exposure to conflict between their parents can create enormous risks for all children, and higher risk for those already vulnerable for other reasons. Children and adolescents of divided families are more likely to experience economic, social and health difficulties through childhood and early adulthood. For example, they are more vulnerable to alcohol and drug use, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of school, needing psychological treatment and marrying early with an increased likelihood for divorce. Exposure to co-parenting conflict is a significant predictor of ongoing distress for adolescents and adolescent antisocial behavior.

It is of the utmost importance to the children experiencing a divided family to minimize the nature and degree of conflict between their parents. It is the responsibility to reduce the conflict however possible. Fortunately, there are services available in the community designed to help parents to reduce their level of conflict. Your attorney can assist you in accessing those services.

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