Divorce Decree & Child Support Laws in New Mexico

by Erika Johansen
New Mexico uses the income shares model to calculate support.

New Mexico uses the income shares model to calculate support.

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New Mexico law assumes that a child should receive the same amount of support after divorce as he received when both parents were still living together. Therefore, the divorce decree will award child support based on the combined gross incomes of both parents, a method known as the income shares model. Special circumstances can affect the usual child support calculation.

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Child Support Basics

A divorce decree is the court's order finalizing a divorce. The divorce decree also describes what both spouses must do about divorce-related matters, such as child custody and support. Even after the divorce, both parents will have an obligation to provide financial support for their children. When one parent gets primary custody of the children, the court may order the noncustodial parent to pay child support. Child support is intended to cover a child's basic needs, such as food, health care, housing and clothing, while the child is in the care of the custodial parent. The support obligation typically ends when the child turns 18 or becomes legally emancipated from her parents.

Income Shares Model

New Mexico uses the income shares model to determine child support. When awarding child support, the court will base its calculations on both parents' combined gross incomes. For this calculation, gross income includes earnings from full-time employment, but doesn't include any income from a parent's new spouse or public benefits the parent receives. The court will also deduct any alimony payments, as well as child support payments from previous marriages, before calculating gross income. Each parent's gross income is then divided by their total combined gross income to decide what percentage that parent is responsible for. New Mexico uses child support tables and special worksheets to make the calculation.

Calculating Child Support

When calculating child support, New Mexico law takes into account how much time each parent will spend with the children. Therefore, there are different worksheets and tables used: one when the parents share custody and another when one parent has custody and the other only has visitation rights. The number of children may also affect the child support award. Courts will often deviate from the usual table calculation when the standard child support percentage would place undue hardship on one parent.

Modifying Support Amount

While some parts of a divorce decree, such as property distribution, are considered final, the court always retains the right to modify the child support award. Once a year, either parent can request in writing that both parents exchange a limited number of financial records and either parent can file a motion to modify child support. Small changes in the ex-spouses' financial situations won't justify a change in child support. New Mexico law presumes that child support should be changed whenever changes in either parents' income or the children's basic needs would change the support award by at least 20 percent. Any subsequent modifications will take effect as of the day the motion is filed; it will not be retroactive to the day when circumstances changed.