New Mexico Child Support

Find out how to calculate child support in New Mexico and how a support award can be modified or terminated.

By , Attorney

How Is Child Support Calculated in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, child support is determined using child support guidelines, which are established by the legislature and revised periodically. The court calculates support using a set formula, and not just a number the child's parents think is "fair." Generally, the court considers both parents' gross income (meaning before-tax earnings) to calculate child support.

The Child Support Enforcement Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department provides a copy of the child support guidelines and the related "Worksheets" that you must use to calculate support. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-11.1.)

How much money one parent pays to the other depends on whether you use a Worksheet "A" or "B." Choosing the worksheet depends on how much time the children spend with each parent. Most families fall into the worksheet A group, which means the children primarily live with one parent (the "primary custodial parent") and spend alternating weekends, alternating holidays, and some vacation time with the other parent ("non-primary custodial parent").

Use Worksheet B if the children spend between 35% and 50% of the calendar year with the non-primary custodial parent. In that system of shared responsibility, the parents essentially maintain two households for the children and share responsibility for all aspects of the cost of raising the children—like buying clothing and shoes, haircuts, school expenses, extracurricular or sports activities, prom dresses, camps, and so on. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-11.1 (F).)

Calculating support can be complicated, and the guidelines difficult to follow. If you have questions about calculating support, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

Do We Have to Follow the Child Support Guidelines?

Yes, in most cases. The right to receive child support belongs to the child, not to the receiving parent. If the parents agree on a child support amount that's lower than what the child support guidelines provide, they must have a very good reason. The child support amount must be approved by a judge, who will review the reason(s) and determine whether it is in the child's best interest to allow a lower amount. (Judges have no reason to object to a higher amount.)

For example, the cost of living in Santa Fe is high, so the court may grant a "hardship" deviation from the guideline amount. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-11.2.) If the court deviates from the guidelines, the judge must provide a written explanation for the deviation. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-11.1 (A).)

If We Have Joint Custody, Does Either Parent Owe Child Support?

Yes. Joint custody can mean either joint legal custody, which refers to decision-making powers, or joint physical custody (also called timeshare and parenting time), which refers to the time children spend in each parent's care. Because child support uses income and parenting time, one parent usually owes child support to the other. The only time child support could be zero is where both parents earn the same gross income, pay equal amounts for insurance and work-related daycare, and have the children the same number of days per year.

When Does Child Support End?

Child support ends when the child is legally emancipated, either by court order or when the child reaches age 18 (or up to age 19 and until graduation from high school, whichever occurs first). Child support also ends if the child joins the military, dies, or gets married. If the child has a disability that makes it impossible to become self-sufficient, then child support can continue indefinitely. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-7 (B)(3))

Can I Stop Paying Child Support if My Ex Refuses to Let Me See My Children?

No. The legal obligation to pay child support does not coincide with being able to spend time with the children. The children need food and clothing regardless of the games the alleged adults play. If your child's other parent won't let you see your children, go to court to enforce the visitation order, but don't stop paying child support.

Can I Get Child Support If I Wasn't Married to the Other Parent?

Yes. Parents are required to support their children regardless of whether they were ever married to each other.

Is the Cost of Insurance Included in Child Support?

The child support formula includes the cost of providing medical, dental, and vision insurance. Either parent can pay for the insurance and have it included in their side of the formula.

If both parents can provide insurance, then the court picks the best policy at the lowest cost. The child support order may also include the cost of extraordinary medical expenses for the child. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-11.1 (H)(I).)

Is the Cost of Work-Related Day Care Included in Child Support?

Yes. The child support formula includes the cost of daycare incurred to enable a parent to work. "Work-related" can also cover the cost of daycare for a parent to attend school or job training if that parent can show that the courses taken are directly related to enhancing that parent's earning potential. A parent cannot include daycare or babysitting expenses to attend non-work-related activities.

What Else Does the Child Support Order Cover?

New Mexico has an "additional expenses" variable on its child support worksheets. The most commonly accepted additional expenses are costs associated with:

  • long-distance visitation expenses (plane tickets, gasoline for driving the children to the other home, and long-distance phone calls)
  • a child's regular psychological counseling (not covered by insurance)
  • orthodontia
  • private school tuition when both parents agree the child should go to a private school, and
  • auto insurance for teenage drivers.

Do Parents Have a Legal Obligation to Share Any Other Expenses for the Children Besides Child Support?

Yes. Medical, dental, vision, and prescription expenses not covered by insurance, are shared between the parents, either 50-50 or what's called pro rata, which is each parent's percentage of the combined gross income. Parents are not required, but are encouraged to share the costs of extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, or music lessons. If parents agree to share such costs and put that agreement into the Parenting Plan filed with the court, then the court can enforce the sharing of these costs.

Can I Include the Cost of College in Child Support?

The short answer is "no," with an added, "but, it depends." Most children do not attend college until after they turn 18—and, once the legal obligation to pay child support ends, the court loses the authority to enforce child support. But, if the parents clearly spell out their agreement to share college expenses in the custody and child support agreement, a court will enforce that agreement.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible?

No. Child support is not considered income to the receiving parent, and the paying parent cannot deduct the child support amount.

Can Child Support Be Modified?

Court's don't like it when parents continuously fight over the amount of child support every time one parent gets a minuscule raise. If the variables that go into calculating child support change such that there would be a change of 20% or more, up or down, in the bottom-line amount of child support, then a legal presumption arises in favor of changing child support.

Each parent has the right to ask the other parent, in writing, to exchange certain financial records once a year. These records include the previous year's tax returns (with all attachments), recent pay stubs, proof of the cost of providing insurance for the children, evidence of work-related daycare expenses, and more. The purpose is to enable parents to figure out what current child support should be on their own. If the bottom line reaches the 20% change threshold, then child support should be modified. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-11.4.)

If I Quit My Job or Take a Lower-Paying One, Can I Reduce My Child Support Payment?

No. Voluntarily quitting a job, setting yourself up to get fired, or choosing a lower-paying job does not entitle you to reduce child support, and courts are not likely to tolerate this behavior.

If a court finds that you've tried to skirt your child support obligations, it may calculate your child support obligation based on what you earn and "imputed" income, which is money you could be earning based on your employment history.

Can Child Support Automatically Be Withheld From My Ex's Paycheck?

Yes. The receiving parent can ask the court to automatically deduct child support from the paying parent's paycheck, without proving a history of missed payments or less-than-full payments. The court will route the automatic deduction from the paying parent's employer through the Child Support Enforcement Division and then forward it to the receiving parent.

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