How is Child Support Determined in New Mexico?
In New Mexico, child support is determined according to the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines and mandatory Child Support Worksheets. Under the New Mexico Guidelines, parents are responsible for expenses like work-related child and healthcare, other expenses like private schools and extracurricular activities are not always factored into child support figures and are paid in addition to the Guideline support.
Child Support Worksheets are mandatory and are generally required for a judge to sign a Final Decree in a divorce or a Parenting Plan. The amount of support due is calculated based on the parents’ custody arrangement, combined gross income, and certain monthly expenses for the children. The guidelines and support calculator are available at http://www.hsd.state.nm.us/csed/guidelines.html
The custodial arrangement, or amount of time a child spends with each parent, is what determines which Child Support Worksheet the parents must use to calculate a child support figure. Worksheet A should be used when one parent has custody of the child for less than 35% of the time. Worksheet B should be used when parents have custody of children for closer to 50% of the time.
The guidelines define “gross monthly income,” as income from any source. This can be in the form of salaries, wages, tips, bonuses, commissions, annuities, pensions, disability benefits, severance pay, interest, dividends, etc. Gross income does not include child support received by a parent to support other children. Alimony and child support for prior children that is actually paid in compliance with a court order may also be subtracted from gross income depending on when the other child support orders were entered. Similarly, TANF, food stamps, and means tested social security income are not included in gross income.
Basic Child Worksheets include only a few of the expenses associated with raising children, mainly basic expenses related to dental and healthcare insurance premiums and work-related childcare. The Child Support Worksheets can include extraordinary medical, dental, or counseling expenses not covered by insurance, as well as travel and communication expenses if the parents live at a distance from each other and extraordinary educational expenses.
Using the statutory formula and income schedule provided in the Worksheets, a child support figure is computed. As stated above, the payment is mandatory. Deviation from the figure established by the Child Support Worksheets is rare and must be support by good cause, as defined in the statute. The Guidelines state that a deviation from the child support figure is only justified in cases of extreme hardship, typically when one parent is forced to pay the other parent over 40% of their gross income, or some other compelling reason.
The system is flawed and ignores many other expenses. These other expenses may include birthdays, holidays, or entertainment. None are included in the Worksheets and must be addressed in a separate parenting plan. However, any support requested beyond the figure established by the Guidelines and Worksheets is not mandatory and will be left to the discretion of the judge.