Parents have an ongoing duty to financially support their children - this duty continues after a divorce or separation and must be met, whether or not a parent receives regular visits with his or her child. Parents that attempt to shirk their child support obligations (sometimes referred to as "deadbeat parents") may face severe penalties. One such penalty is "contempt of court," which can include fines and, in extreme circumstances, jail time for the refusal to obey the child support order.
This article explains how to enforce child support orders in New Mexico. If after reading this article, you have questions about obtaining and enforcing child support orders, contact a local family law attorney for assistance.
While both parents have an obligation to financially support their children, after child support has been established by a paternity order, child support order or divorce decree, only one parent will be required to pay child support –typically the noncustodial parent.
The order or decree will spell out how much child support the noncustodial parent is required to pay. The duty to make child support payments continues as long as the court order is in place or the child reaches 18 and graduates high school in their expected year of graduation (unless other requirements are set forth in the order). For more information on how child support is calculated in New Mexico, see Child Support in New Mexico.
If you do not currently have a child support order in place, you may seek the assistance of a local child support agency or hire a private attorney to represent you in court and ask a judge to set an appropriate amount. Alternatively, you can try to reach an agreement with your child’s other parent. Whatever method you choose, know that a judge will have to approve the child support amount and make it a final order before it can become enforceable.
The New Mexico Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) can assist parents with obtaining a child support order as well as enforcing one. To learn more about their services, see the New Mexico Human Services Department website.
The services provided by CSED include:
After child support has been established by a court or through CSED, the noncustodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent. If the parent refuses to obey the child support order and fails to pay the full amount of child support required, the deadbeat parent may be held in contempt of court or subject to other penalties aimed at collecting payment.
To bring a child support enforcement action, you may either hire your own private attorney to argue on your behalf in court, or you may ask CSED to handle the case and bring an enforcement action on your child's behalf.
If you decide to go to court, you will be required to file legal paperwork. The exact forms required will vary from county to county; however, many courts have child support enforcement forms available at the courthouse. See theNew Mexico Self Help Forms section for more information and basic child support forms.
After you have filed your paperwork and properly served or provided it to the other parent, the court will schedule a hearing that both parents are required to attend. If you have additional questions regarding which forms to file, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
If you decide to work with CSED, an agent or attorney of that office will handle the case on your child's behalf.
CSED and family law judges in New Mexico have a variety of tools available for enforcing child support and collecting overdue payments. These include:
In addition to the above enforcement tools, a judge may find that a parent who willfully refuses to pay child support should be held in contempt of court. Contempt is essentially a declaration by the court that the parent has disobeyed a court order. A parent found in contempt may be ordered to pay monetary fines and/or spend time in jail.
If you have additional questions about how to enforce a child support order in New Mexico, click here to contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on enforcement of child support orders in New Mexico and to read the complete statute, see New Mexico Statutes, Title 40, Article 4, et seq.