Paternity cases in New Mexico are determined according to the Uniform Parentage Act. This act outlines the very stringent and specific requirements impacting on a paternity case. This statute also outlines how to handle custody, time sharing and child support involving a child under this Act.
Paternity at its most simplistic form is the determination of the rights and responsibilities of a father and mother of a child when the birth of the child occurs outside of the marriage. Important factor impacting on paternity cases is that child support may be retroactive to the birth of the child; there is a statute of limitations in paternity cases and parents can raise equitable defenses when it comes to the financial obligations of a parent under this Act.
In a paternity case the court will usually conduct a DNA test to determine if a father/mother is the biological parent of the child. Assuming that parentage is determined the court will move onward to establish custody and time sharing and child support. Just like in a divorce case the court will utilize the concepts of Joint Legal Custody and Sole legal custody, which simply determines which parent can make decisions regarding the child in five areas: religion, health care, schooling, residence, and recreational activities.
Thereafter the court will determine what is in the best interests of the child by ordering time sharing and child support. There is no set definition of the best interests of the child, but the court will consider the age of the child, interaction with the parents and many other factors when determining what is best for the child.
Other unique issues arising under paternity cases is that the child himself/herself can raise a claim of paternity, so too, can a person who has supported a child, such as grandparents. Moreover, a claim for paternity can be raised all the way until the child is age 21 and then there is a potential for child support to be retroactive for many of those years. These various issues raised in a paternity case offer unique challenges to ensure the protection of the rights of the parents and the child.