Take a look to your left. Now take a look to your right. I’m guessing that somewhere in your immediate environment there’s a friendly reminder about the power of patience. Possibly you have an inspirational poster on your wall with a kitten dangling from a clothesline with a furry reminder to . . .
Kittens don’t lie – patience is a virtue.
But patience doesn’t only apply to getting stuck in rush hour traffic, in-laws, or completing an assignment. Patience also pays dividends with the goal of getting more court ordered time-sharing with your child.
There are three common scenarios where a parent lacks contact with their child and is forced to get the courts involved.
The first scenario involves fathers that are prevented from seeing their child because they have not been formally adjudicated as the biological parent. For whatever reason the mother is preventing contact and/or visitation. Generally speaking, the police refuse to get involved with “domestic matters” unless there is a valid court order. As such, the father in this situation would be forced to file the requisite Petition to Establish Paternity, Custody, and Time-sharing, to secure a valid court order that specifically delineates the father’s court ordered rights. For more information on establishing parental rights click here:
The second common situation involves parents that are now divorced. In order to complete the divorce, the parents entered the requisite Parenting Plan necessary to finalize the divorce. For any number of reasons, the parents have not followed the Parenting Plan for an extended period of time, with one parent drifting away from the child’s life.
In the third scenario the parents were never married, but paternity was established and a Parenting Plan was entered between the parties. Despite these facts, one parent has not seen the child for an extended period of time.
All three scenarios above involve a degree of time passing where one parent lacks visitation, time-sharing, and communication with the child. This hiatus in visitation can be caused by any manner of different reasons, including: incarceration, legal issues, addiction, moving to a different state, one parent planting negative thoughts/feelings about the absent parent in the child’s mind, or any other reason preventing one parent from having an effective relationship with one’s child.
People change, situations change, and absences away from one’s child can also change. Today the absent parent is interested in re-establishing a relationship with the child, but is experiencing resistance from the other parent.
Ultimately New Mexico courts are guided by the “Best Interests of the Child Standard” when determining the appropriate system of time-sharing. This standard presumes that it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents.
Despite this presumption, the child’s extended time away from one parent becomes the “status quo” in the child’s life. In custody disputes the court initially gravitates towards the status quo, with gradual and incremental changes over time. The court favors the status quo and consistency because children from broken homes generally experience increased uncertainty and stress relative to children from a single home. As such, the court is reluctant to add potential conflict and uncertainty to the child’s stressful living environment. Generally speaking, the court only considers dramatically altering the status quo when there is a substantial and material change in circumstances that poses a potential danger to the child.
In custody disputes, the court leans towards a system of time-sharing that creates predictability and stability in a child’s life. Based on this fact, the time-sharing and visitation that has taken place in the immediate past (i.e. over the past 6 months) will heavily influence the court’s determination of what time-sharing should take place in the immediate future. The court looks to the past when molding the present. In turn, one’s actions in the present moment influences the future. Generally speaking, New Mexico courts favor slow and predictable change, where a child is able to adjust and acclimate to the changing environment – rather than throwing a child into a radically altered time-sharing system in a “sick or swim” manner that could adversely affect the child’s overall development.
In situations where the parent-child relationship has eroded, the court takes a number of steps to repair the relationship. On one end of the spectrum the court may order small periods of supervised visitation through a neutral, monitored location such APN or Neutral Corner. In the middle, the court may order a parent to receive individual therapy for issues such as substance abuse, anger, or domestic violence awareness before communication and/or visitation resumes. On the other end of the spectrum, the court may order “Reintegration Therapy” where the parent works with a trained specialist to identify the factors that led to the breakdown in the relationship. Reintegration therapy also works with the child and parent to repair communication issues and proactively addresses any resentment or trust issues between the parent and child.
Repairing or developing a relationship with one’s child is similar to any worthwhile achievement – it takes time, effort, and PATIENCE. New Mexico courts often demand for parents to work hard towards the relationship, rewarding the parent with slow and incremental increases in time-sharing.