Child Support Law
New Mexico Child Support Guidelines Explained
Most child support orders in New Mexico begin with the Child Services Enforcement Division (CSED), part of the state’s Human Services Department. A parent seeking child support can go to the CSED. The CSED will calculate child support using guidelines established under state law. Once complete, a judge will issue the child support order.
Except in relatively unusual circumstances, the guidelines will determine your child support amount. The guidelines use the parents’ income and the number of children as factors in determining support. Child support is for basic living expenses such as food, housing, work-related daycare, and medical insurance.
Spending habits and behavior of the parents do not factor into New Mexico’s child support guidelines. However, child support can increase for extraordinary medical, educational, and transportation expenses. For example, if both parents agree to send the child to private school or your child needs counseling that isn’t covered by insurance, the amount may increase.
Income is all the money you earn, including things like wages, tips, commissions, bonuses or any other money you receive for work. It also includes non-work income, such as money you receive from a trust, annuity, capital gains on stocks, and Social Security benefits. Public assistance benefits and any child support payments you already receive do not count as income, however.
How Custody Affects Child Support
Custody determines which parent pays the other child support. Generally speaking, the custodial parent (the parent who primarily lives with and takes care of the child) receives child support and the noncustodial parent pays child support. How much time the child lives with the other parent will factor into the amount paid. So, if you are the noncustodial parent and have what is called “basic visitation” rights of less than thirty-five percent of the time, the amount you pay will be higher than if the child lives with you frequently.
If the parents have “shared responsibility” which means the children are with each parent at least thirty-five percent of the time, it is possible that both parents will have to pay some child support. This depends on their visitation time and their income and other expenses such as child care, medical, dental or educational expenses or even transportation and communication expenses if the parties live a great distance apart.
Deviating From the Guidelines
You can only deviate from child support guidelines if the guidelines would lead to an “unjust or inappropriate” amount. Under state law, courts and the CSED can do this if the amount under the guidelines would create a “substantial hardship” on one of the parents. Courts presume that the guidelines impose a financial hardship if the amount of the guidelines equals 40 percent of the paying parent’s gross income.
Modifying Child Support
It’s possible to modify your child support amount if there has been a “substantial change in material circumstances.” State law presumes a substantial change has occurred if the guidelines indicate your child support should increase or decrease by 20 percent. Courts are reluctant to modify child support for smaller variations.
Under New Mexico law, each parent has the right to request financial information annually, which includes federal and state tax returns, work-related daycare expenses, the child’s medical insurance premiums, and wage and payroll statements for the previous year. These documents can help you determine if you can or should modify your child support amount.
If you do wish to modify your child support amount, you must petition the Child Support Enforcement Division. It does not change on its own, and all child support obligations are owed in full and on time until the court issues a new child support order.
Support orders since January 1994 must include a provision for wage withholding unless both parents and the courts agree on other payment methods. Under wage withholding, the support payment is deducted from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck just as taxes, insurance premiums and other items are. The child support office then sends the check to the custodial parent. Wage withholding offers advantages for all parties. First, it assures that the payment is made on the front end and the child is financially supported. Second, it is a clear written record for the noncustodial parent that the support payment was made. If the noncustodial parent is self-employed, arrangements for electronic funds transfer to CSED can be made.