COURT CLINIC ORIENTATION Welcome to the Family Court Clinic Orientation This presentation has been designed to help you understand the functions of the Family Court Clinic of the Second Judicial District Court
COURT CLINIC ORIENTATION The Family Court Clinic provides services to individuals referred to the Court Clinic by a Court Order. The Clinic addresses child custody issues in cases filed in Bernalillo County.
Type of Cases Referred to the Court Clinic • Divorce Cases: the parties were married and had a child together. • Parentage Cases: the parties were NOT married but had a child together. • Domestic Violence Cases: allegations of domestic violence in the parties relationship.
CourtClinic Referral Order The cases that are seen at the Court Clinic are referred to the Clinic by a Court Clinic Referral Order (“CCRO”).
Processes and Procedures • On Call Consultation • Priority Consultation (“PC”) • Mediation • Advisory Consultation (“AC”)
On Call Consultation • An “On Call Consultation” occurs when a judicial officer requests assistance from the Court Clinic during a hearing. • The Consultation could be conducted on the day of the hearing or at a later date. The clinician will assist the parties in reaching an agreement, or will otherwise make suggestions to the Court.
Priority Consultation • All custody and timesharing recommendations are guided by the best interest of the child(ren). • “Priority Consultation" means that the Court has requested specific information through a brief assessment regarding the parenting situation and recommendations regarding temporary arrangements. • The Priority Consultation will be conducted at a later date, usually within three (3) weeks,of the Order being entered.
Mediation • Mediations are conducted by mediators who have education and experience in psychology, social work, marriage, family and child counseling or related fields with special training in working with families in conflict, domestic violence and custody related issues. • The purpose of the Domestic Relations Mediation Act is to assist the Court, parents and other interested parties in determining the best interests of the child(ren) involved in domestic matters cases.
Mediation • Mediation is a meeting between both parties and a neutral third person. The role of the mediator is to facilitate the parties in reaching an agreement. The mediator does not represent either party, and remains impartial. • You and the other party will each present your proposals for form of custody and timesharing, and other issues, and will negotiate to attempt to reach an agreement.
Who should attend Mediation? • It is not advisable to bring friends, current boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, partners, your children or relatives to mediation. The mediation process will include only the parties. • If you are represented by an attorney, he or she will not be included in the mediation process.
What Mediation Will Not Address • There are some matters that we cannot address in Mediation. These include: • Giving Legal Advice • Child Support • Spousal Support • Division of Property
Child(ren) in Mediation The Court Clinic clinician may use his or her discretion in deciding if it is necessary to interview your child(ren). If it is appropriate and necessary to interview your child(ren), with the agreement of the parties, the Court Clinic clinician will schedule an appointment to speak alone with your child(ren) or to have another clinician speak with your child.
Child(ren) in Mediation • The mediators are trained to work sensitively with child(ren) in these matters. • The child(ren) are not asked to choose sides or to choose between parents. • The mediator will gather information from the child(ren) regarding their thoughts, feelings and concerns.
Getting the Most Out of Mediation • Give careful thought to a parenting plan that will work for your child(ren). Designing the parenting plan should include the active participation of both parents. • Please come prepared. There is no substitute for preparation.
Getting the Most Out of Mediation • Many parents find it helpful to write out a schedule and bring it to mediation. • Think through the details of the average day. • Think of special circumstances: holidays, vacations, transportation and exchange locations.
What if there is a Restraining Order? • If there is an Order of Protection protecting you from the other party and/or if domestic violence has occurred, you may request to meet with the mediator separately from the other party. • If you meet together with the other party, the mediator will work to create an environment that is safe and will permit you to be heard.
Restraining Order If you have an Order of Protection there is a separate waiting area at the Family Court Clinic. If you are still uncomfortable, you may request to wait in another area until mediation begins.
Confidential Mediation Mediation proceedings shall be held in private and shall be confidential. All communications, verbal or written, from the parties to the mediator shall be inadmissible in any Court hearing.
Confidential Mediation No report of the personal content of mediation shall be made to the Court, or the attorney for either party. The mediator shall inform the Court by written notice the result of the mediation session. If the mediation process is successful, the agreement shall become a parenting plan.
Confidential Mediation • If a full mediated agreement cannot be reached, the unresolved issues shall proceed to the Court for a hearing. • At the hearing the Court shall rule on how the case will proceed (i.e. Priority Consultation, Advisory Consultation, Rule 11-706 evaluation, Court ruling, etc.)
Confidential Mediation For additional information, please refer to the “Confidential Mediation at the Court Clinic Information Sheet” which is attached to your questionnaire.
Confidential Mediation Please be aware that Clinicians are mandated by federal and state laws to report to the appropriate authorities any suspicion of child abuse or any instance of suspected risk of harm to yourself or others.
Advisory Consultation • “Advisory Consultation" means an assessment about the parenting situation and a brief written report summarizing the information for the attorneys and the Court. • The process includes an assessment of the positions, situations and relationships of family members and recommendations regarding specific plans, general issues or requested action.
Advisory Consultation Fee There is a fee associated with the Advisory Consultation process which is based on each party’s gross monthly income and the number of children involved in the case.
Rule 11-706 Evaluation • The Court may Order the appointment of a Rule 11-706 Evaluator. This is an evaluation conducted by a private psychologist not associated with the Court Clinic. This professional will conduct a child custody evaluation and provide an extensive report with recommendations. • Both Advisory Consultations and a Rule 11-706 evaluation can be lengthy, time-consuming and costly to the parties.
Physical Custody “Physical custody" means the physical care and supervision of a child(ren).
Sole Legal vs. Joint Legal Custody • Sole legal custody gives one parent authority to make decisions. • Joint legal custody permits both parents to be involved in decision making for the child or children.
Joint Legal Custody Joint Legal Custody means an Order of the Court awarding decision-making of a child(ren) to both parents. Joint legal custody does not imply an equal division of the child's time between the parents or an equal division of financial responsibility for the child.
Joint Legal Custody Determination The law in New Mexico states that there shall be a presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interest of a child in an initial custody determination.
An Award of Joint Legal Custody • When joint legal custody is awarded, the Court shall approve a parenting plan. • The parenting plan shall include a division of a child's time and care into periods of responsibility for each parent. It may also include the following:
An Award of Joint Legal Custody • (1) statements regarding the child's religion, education, child care, recreational activities, counseling and medical and dental care; • (2) designation of specific decision-making methods; • (3) methods of communicating information about the child, transporting the child, exchanging care for the child and maintaining telephone and mail contact between parent and child; • (4) procedures for future problem-solving, including procedures for dispute resolution;
Joint Legal Custody means: • (1) each parent shall have significant, well-defined periods of responsibility with their child; • (2) each parent shall have, be allowed and expected to carry out, responsibility for their child's financial, physical, emotional and developmental needs during each parent's periods of responsibility;
Joint Legal Custody means: • (3) the parents shall consult with each other on major decisions involving their child before implementing those decisions; that is, neither parent shall make a decision or take an action which results in a major change in a child's life until the matter has been discussed with the other parent and the parents agree. • If the parents, after discussion, cannot agree and if one parent wishes to effect a major change while the other parent does not wish the major change to occur, then NO change shall occur until the issue has been resolved;
Joint Legal Custody means: • (4) the following guidelines apply to major changes in a child's life: • (a) plans to change the child(ren)’s city or state of residence. • (b) the child(ren)’s religious denomination and religious activities, or lack thereof. • (c) both parents shall have access to school records, teachers and activities.
Joint Legal Custody means: • (d) both parents shall have access to, counseling, medical and dental treatment providers and information, as deemed appropriate by the provider. Major elective medical or dental treatment must be agreed upon by both parents; • (e) both parents may attend their child's activities and both parents should know the current schedules. Also, neither parent may enroll the child(ren) in a new recreational activity unless the parties agree;
Joint Legal Custody decisions • (5) decisions regarding major changes in a child's life may be decided by: • (a) discussion and agreement between the joint custodial parents; • (b) the parents seek family counseling, conciliation or mediation services to assist in resolving their differences; • (c) agreement between the parents to submit the dispute to binding arbitration;
Joint Legal Custody decisions • (d) allocating ultimate responsibility for a particular major decision area to one parent; • (e) terminating joint legal custody and awarding sole custody to one person; • (f) reference to a master; or • (g) the District Court Judge making a ruling.
Sole Legal Custody Sole Legal Custody means an Order of the Court awarding custody of and decision making over a child(ren) to only one parent.
Period of Responsibility “Period of Responsibility" means a specified period of time during which a parent is responsible for providing for a child(ren)'s physical, developmental and emotional needs, including the decision making required in daily living. Specified periods of responsibility shall not be unilaterally changed in an instance or more permanently.
Primary Residence • Primary residence is defined as the city and state in which the child(ren)resides. • Primary residence is not the parent with whom the child lives or the home in which the child resides.
Timesharing and Visitation • Timesharing and visitation is the period of responsibility that the children have with each parent. • Visitation means a period of time available to a non-custodial parent, under a sole custody arrangement.
Parenting Plan • Parenting Plan means a document submitted for approval by the Court setting forth the responsibilities of each parent, individually and jointly in a joint custody arrangement; • When a parenting plan is written and signed by a judge, it becomes a Court Order.
Relocation of Custodial Parent In situations in which one parent has sole custody of the child, the parent seeking to relocate with a child is entitled to a presumption that the move is in the best interests of the child. The burden is on the non-custodial parent to show that the move is against those interests or motivated by bad faith on the part of the custodial parent.
Child Developmental Needs A parenting plan must take into consideration the age and emotional stage of development of each child. A child can make the decision about which parents he wishes to live with when he reaches the age of majority, which in the State of New Mexico is 18 years old.
Developmental tasks Bonding to parental figures Physiological rhythms Basic Trust Exploration from a secure base Important to provide Basic caretaking Continuity and consistency Limited number of caretakers and change Safety Nurturance Infants and Toddlers: 0-3 years High Stress Signals • Excessive fretfulness and crying • Sleeping, eating, digestive problems • Failure to gain weight and thrive • Apathy, nightmares, regression • Major prolonged upset with transitions • Delayed development
Developmental tasks Autonomy Safe separations and reunions Peer relationships Impulse management Time lasts forever Important to provide Firm limits Safety Support their ideas & feelings Reassurance & explanations Consistent social settings Preschool: 3-5 years High Stress Signals • Regression • Development lags • Excessive aggression • Withdrawal and depression • Extreme neediness • Prolonged crying at transitions
Developmental tasks Increase involvement outside family Competence Fairness Self-esteem Logical reasoning Important to provide Insulation from parental conflicts Keep your promises Continuity of friends and school Time for talk and listening Flexibility to make child’s events a priority Elementary: 6-12 years High Stress Signals • Trouble getting involved in activities • School problems • Denial and Splitting • Anxiety and Moodiness • Aggression and Depression
Developmental tasks Separation and independence Identity Sexual identity Abstract thought Important to provide Age appropriate limits Allow responsibility & independence Respect for individuality Negotiation Teenage: 13-18 years • High Stress Signals • Depression • Withdrawal • Suicidal thoughts • Splitting and manipulation of parents • School problems • Substance abuse and dangerous behaviors
Children’s Reactions If the child returns from visiting the other parent angry and/or upset, it may not be the fault of the other parent, rather the child may be acting out because he/she senses the tension and unhappiness between his/her parents or simply it may reflect the child(ren)’s needs.
Parental Cooperation • The first year following the separation is a critical time for children. Parents may be more distracted, and routines may be disrupted. Everyone, including the child, is struggling to find a new balance. • Reassure your child that there will be an on-going relationship with each parent and shield your child from the parental conflict.