This post is the second in a three part series on grandparents rights in New Mexico. If you haven’t already read part 1, I recommend you do before continuing.
The best interests of the children
All legal decisions regarding children in our society, from the highest levels to the lowest, are governed by the “best interests” principle. At the international level, the UN applies these standards via the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). At the national and state levels, every first world country and every state in the union follows some version of these guidelines.
When you start to think about it, this standard can get a bit complicated from a legal point of view. It essentially asks a court to look into the future and predict a child’s well being outcomes. How do we, as a society, do that? Well, we do it by applying a multitude of considerations to the case. Exactly which considerations varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the main ones are:
- The child’s safety – obviously, this is the primary consideration for any court. If a child’s safety is threatened by a custody or visitation arrangement, the court will not under any circumstances allow that arrangement to stand.
- The child’s age – younger children generally require more care than older children. The court will also place particular weight on who has been the child’s caretaker thus far in the case of younger children. If a child is older and more mature, many courts (including New Mexico courts) will take the child’s wishes and opinions into account. In a New Mexico courtroom, judges may interview and take into consideration the preferences of any child 14 or older.
- The child’s routine – the court wants to ensure that a child’s life is as stable as possible. This includes where they go to school, where other family members live, where they receive medical care, what sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities they participate in, and any other activities they might participate in. If a change in custody or visitation arrangements is disruptive to one or more of these arrangements, the court will be less likely to approve of it.