How to File for Child Custody

The process for unmarried partners to file for sole or joint child custody of their children is largely the same as that for a divorce with children. The big difference is that the parties do not have to complete the financial disclosures and divide property. Also, when parties are not married, neither is eligible for spousal support. You may file and complete your child custody case online. We provide you with the resources and tools you need.

Overview of the Uncontested Child Parentage & Custody Process

The process to file for child custody starts by having the right forms. The State of New Mexico requires a Parentage Packet, which includes:

  • Petition to Establish Parentage
  • Order Establishing Parentage
  • Custody Plan and Agreement
  • Child Support Obligation and supporting Child Support Worksheet

The party who files these forms will be known as the Petitioner. The non-filing party, or Respondent, will need to file Response documents. You have options for how to file your documents—online through your local district court’s e-filing system or as hard copies delivered to the Domestic Relations Court Clerk at your local district courthouse. Both methods for filing will incur filing fees. In an uncontested case, all forms may be filed at once. A judge may sign the forms and make the submitted parenting plan and child support schedule binding. If a judge has questions or requires further information, they may schedule a hearing for which both parents must appear.

How It Works

We can help you file for sole or joint child custody (see legal definitions below) online by providing you with the forms and the instructions to complete the process without a lawyer. Using our “on your own but not alone” platform is easy:

Step 1: Prepare Gather the information you will need for your child custody and parentage case using our Child Custody Intake Form. You may also use our child support calculators to get an idea of which parent will pay child support and how much. Step 2: Create your legal documents When you have the information you need, create your free account and start your process with the interactive online questionnaire. You may save your work in progress and return to it later if needed. When you are finished with the online interview, our system will automatically generate the child custody forms you need. You can preview them and change/correct the information you entered as needed. Step 3: Pay, print and file Submit your electronic payment for your pro se legal services, and your printable forms will be emailed to you and available through the My Forms link. Review your child custody papers carefully and sign in all required spaces. Please note: some forms may require a notarized signature. Wait to sign in those spaces until you are in the presence of a certified Notary. With your custody forms, we provide detailed instructions for filing your child custody documents.

If at any time during the process you have questions or would like legal advice, you may consult with an experienced New Mexico family law attorney. Consultations up to 15 minutes are free. (Appointment required.) Through our partnership, we also provide the mediation or facilitation services you and your co-parent may need to work through disputes so that you can continue to file your child custody case online.

Legal Definitions

Sole legal custody is when one parent is responsible for making decisions regarding the child(ren)’s living situation, daily care and well-being. The non-custodial parent may have access to the child(ren)’s education, medical records and activity schedules but does not have the authority to modify them. Sole physical custody is when the child(ren) reside with one parent. The child(ren) may have no contact with the other parent or may have limited access to them during supervised or unsupervised visitation. Joint legal custody means that both parents equally share responsibilities and decision-making authority over the child(ren)’s living situation, daily care, spiritual development and extra-curricular activities. Joint physical custody is when both parents share time with the child(ren), although timesharing may not be equal between parents.

New Mexico Courts presume that joint legal and physical custody are in the best interest of the child(ren). If you file for sole custody, you may need to provide evidence that demonstrates and explains why sole custody is better for your child(ren).