A Moral — and Legal — Gray Area
This is certainly a reasonable question, and it seems simple enough, but it is a complicated issue involving the perspectives of many different parties.
It is illegal to abuse children in New Mexico. This naturally leads to the next question: Is spanking your child “abuse?” It definitely can be. New Mexico provides no codified guidelines to define a “legal” spanking, so when a parent is accused of abusing their child by spanking, such matters can only be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some questions that may be considered in such cases are:
- Is there a history of domestic abuse or other violent behaviors?
- Is there a history of allegations of domestic abuse?
- Is there a history of false allegations of domestic abuse?
The question of whether spanking a child is abuse is ideally an objective inquiry, but it is nevertheless made from a subjective perspective. Who are you asking? A police officer? A doctor? A teacher? A family court judge? Your former spouse (the other parent)? A Child Protective Services investigator? The child? All of these individuals who come into contact with your family and learn of your form(s) of discipline do so from different perspectives and for different purposes, and therefore their opinions will be informed by various motives. When it comes to bitter custody battles, which are already infused with high amounts of anger and mistrust, the other parent is very unlikely to give you the benefit of the doubt. Any contemplation of whether or not spanking is abuse must also consider the perspectives of others, and their intentions.
Potential Legal Issues
Courts have a general inclination to “err to the side of caution,” so even the accusation of abuse is enough to cause you substantial problems, regardless of whether you have actually committed abuse or not. We always advise clients to find an alternative to corporeal punishment. When the issue comes up in custody cases, judges will often order against the use of physical discipline.
New Mexico is a mandatory reporting state. This means that if any adult suspects that you are abusing or neglecting your children, they have an affirmative duty to report it to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. And if they do not report it, they can be liable for not doing so.
Is it illegal to spank your kid in New Mexico? Not necessarily, but that may be beside the point. Although not against the law, it is still a bad idea from a legal perspective to spank your child in New Mexico.
In a custody battle, nothing is “business as usual.” In an adversarial process, you cannot think objectively. Even if spanking your child would be perfectly appropriate under normal circumstances, this is not normal circumstances, and the rules that apply to intact families (read: parents that are together) do not apply to you. The enemy is looking for anything to use against you, and you are giving them ammunition by spanking your child.
Contact an Albuquerque Family Law Attorney
At Cortez & Hoskovec, LLC, we are dedicated to helping families through their most emotionally trying times. The support of an experienced Albuquerque family law lawyer can provide the guidance you need to make the best decisions for you and your loved ones.
Cortez & Hoskovec focuses solely on family law cases, with 30 years of combined practice. Contact us online or call (505) 544-5126 to discuss your case.