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Child Support in New Mexico – The Other Silent Killer

Every state is different – And unlike almost every other area of law, statutes related to family law are, for the most part, the unique creations of the various state legislatures. And unlike most state laws, there are no companion federal domestic relations laws that can be used as their model.

When it comes to custody or timesharing matters, the laws, rules, and procedures for resolution can be similar in some respects from state to state. After all, particular long-established folkways and understandings about what a fit and proper parent looks like and what it looks like when parents try to co-parent with one another constructively.

Many of these understandings are relatively universal and translate from community to community. However, laws vary wildly from state to state when it comes to the calculation of child support.

How Does Child Support Work in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, child support is determined based on several factors, including

  1. The number of children;
  2. The ages of the children;
  3. Your income;
  4. The other parent's income;
  5. The amounts the parents pay for health/dental/vision insurance for the child
  6. The amounts the parents pay for work-related child care;
  7. The amounts paid for extraordinary expenses;
  8. The amount of time the child spends with each parent.

Items 1 and 2 are self-explanatory, but explaining how they impact the calculation is better suited to a consultation.

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (505) 544-5126.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the other factors: Your and the other parent's income – The New Mexico Child Support Guidelines base the child support obligation on the parents' average combined gross monthly income.

For most cases, "income" for these purposes is calculated using the year to date income of a pay statement projected out to the end of the year, last year's tax return, or your hourly pay rate. It is important to note that whatever method the court uses to determine one parent's income should use the same way to determine the other's when possible to be fair.

This is not always possible when one parent just changed jobs or is self-employed, but that is the starting point. Gross income also includes income from ALL sources, even tax-exempt income, like a VA disability benefit. The exception is public assistance. Food stamps and rent assistance are not considered income.

How Does Health & Dental Insurance Impact Child Support?

The parent paying the premium for this benefit will get credit for the expense on the child support guideline worksheet. Still, you will not be credited dollar for dollar toward the obligation. You can also only be credited for the portion of your premium that pays to insure the child. You don't get credit for insuring yourself or a spouse or other children. So if it is only you and your child on the policy, you will need to determine the difference between what you would pay to insure yourself and deduct that amount from the entire premium amount—the difference between the two covers the child.

This gets a bit more complicated if you are insuring a spouse or other children on the policy. Still, you can usually obtain such information from your Human Resources Department in a document commonly referred to as an Explanation of Benefits. We can help you make sure you are getting credited correctly.

What About Paying for Work-Related Childcare?

The parent paying for work-related child care will get credit for the expense on the child support guideline worksheet, but as stated, it must be work (not school)-related. If you are paying a relative to babysit, you must also document that you have paid the child care provider. There is an assumption, for instance, that grandparents do not charge for babysitting their grandchildren.

So if you are paying your parent or a friend or a family member informally to provide child care, make sure that you have some signed agreement and demonstrate that you are paying that person.

What Are Extraordinary Expenses?

Extraordinary expenses are relatively rare. The most common extraordinary fees are associated with travel when parents live in different parts of the country. If it costs $3,500.00 to fly 2 or 3 kids to you and back a few times each year, then you will need to sock away $291.67 each month ($3,500.00 divided by 12 months) to be able to pay for it. This is a monthly expense that should be included on the worksheet as an extraordinary expense.

How Much Time do the Children Spend With Each Parent?

Unless you and the other parent share 50/50 timesharing, the child typically spends more time with one parent than the other. Because we know that there are 365 days in a year and because we can determine the number of days the child spends with each parent based on the regular timesharing schedule contained in the Parenting Plan, we can determine the percentages of time the child spends with each parent.

For instance, if the child lives primarily with one parent and spends every other weekend (from Friday 6:00 p.m. until Sunday 6:00 p.m.) with the other parent, the percentages are 86% - 14%. Add another overnight on the alternating weekends, and the shares become 79% - 21%. Another overnight on the alternating weekend would make it 72% - 28%. The magic number is 35% because that is the percentage of timesharing that moves the child support obligation in your case from a Worksheet A to a Worksheet B and possibly reducing it substantially.

There are two forms of child support guideline worksheets used in New Mexico. They are the "A" and "B." Worksheet A is the basic worksheet, and Worksheet B is the "Shared Responsibility" worksheet. Worksheet B results in a much lower monthly obligation because of the statutory presumption of sharing primary responsibility for the child when the parent getting less time with the child reaches or exceeds 35% of the time. Going from worksheet A to the worksheet B can mean the difference between paying $500.00 per month and paying $375.00 per month.

The difference between the A and B worksheets in most cases is substantial enough that frankly, parties often have to commit an excessive amount of their legal resources into getting, or preventing the other from getting, that "extra day" which would put the child support obligation on the worksheet B. Wrapping an argument about money up in the guise of a discussion about what timesharing schedule best serves the "best interests of the child" often makes for insincere arguments and dogged stubbornness in them on both sides.

Still, it's the lay of the law in New Mexico. It's what you need to be aware of before you can have a meaningful conversation about entering a timesharing schedule and particularly before you wade into an unacceptable timesharing schedule, thinking you will be able to change it later after things calm down. It will probably not be as easy as you think to change your timesharing schedule later because one or both of you may be arguing about money (either you don't want to pay it or you don't want the other to pay less) in a context where either will look like a bad parent to admit that it the desire for money is a factor in the mix.

This is but one of many pitfalls your attorney will steer you away from. As noted in several other blogs, developments that occur very early in your case can have lasting and devastating effects on your case moving forward, which can be very difficult to undo later. Remember, especially if you are wading into this process for the first time, you are reinventing your family from what it was to what it will be.

You owe it to yourself and your family's future to retain and consult with competent counsel from the earliest point possible. It is also never too late to retain counsel to get an existing case on or back on track. Put our extensive knowledge and many years of experience in New Mexico family law practice to work for you in identifying your goals and developing a plan to attain the best outcome in your case.

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (505) 544-5126.

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