BRISTOL FAMILY LAW practices exclusively in the following areas of Family Law:


Adoption

If your family wishes to adopt a child from New Mexico, or if you wish to adopt your grandchild or stepchild, Bristol Family Law can walk you through the complicated process. We can handle local adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and grandparent adoptions.


Alimony /Spousal Support

Spousal support may be provided to either spouse as part of a divorce.  The law governing spousal support is very complex and subjective, and the amount paid depends on the facts of each case.  If two people can reach an agreement on spousal support, the  court will enforce this agreement regardless of the amount of spousal support the court would have ordered.  However, if an agreement cannot be reached, then the determination of a spousal support award is litigated in court.  Given that the law regarding spousal support is subjective, whether you are seeking alimony or your spouse has requested that you pay spousal support, parties are best served by having experienced counsel.

Bristol Family Law offers experience, knowledge, and guidance for clients seeking financial support and defending clients who may be or are ordered to pay support to ensure that the amount is fair and appropriate.


Asset Division

The division of assets and debts in divorce can pose significant challenges. Many factors can affect the final property settlement: whether the assets and debts are community or separate, whether an asset has been transmuted from separate to community property, determining what value is placed on a significant asset, etcetera. Bristol Family Law works to achieve a fair and reasonable division of all community assets such, which may include:

  • High value investment assets;
  • Family-owned businesses and closely held corporations;
  • Professional practice interests; and
  • High value homes, vacation homes, and investment real estate.

We also work with clients who may have significant debt, such as:

  • Homes worth less than the outstanding mortgage;
  • I.R.S. tax debt; and
  • Extensive credit card debt.

Bristol Family Law helps ensure that asset and debt division is fair and reasonable by identifying all relevant factors, and identifying and assigning ownership, correct valuations to assets and debts, including, when appropriate, the use of forensic accounts to locate hidden assets, business valuation experts, and other financial experts.  With this information we work with our client to tailor an innovative and fair proposal, or properly evaluate the other party’s proposal. We protect your marital rights and ensure you receive a fair and equitable distribution of assets and debt.


Child Custody and Timeshare

Litigation of child custody and timeshare (the time a parent has with the child) is difficult and emotionally trying.

Child custody and timeshare litigation can arise in dissolution of a marriage and for many years after divorce. In most custody cases, parents must agree upon a timeshare arrangement that is reasonable both for the children and the parents, or the court will determine an arrangement. Decisions made during child custody cases will have significant impact on your children.

The presumption in New Mexico is that parents share joint legal custody over children, which means the parents share decision-making of the important matters in the child’s life. Parents generally share equal timeshare, unless reasons exist that this arrangement will not work or is not in the best interests of the child.

Some of the most contested Court cases pertain to child custody and timeshare.  The standard for custody and timeshare determinations is the “best interests of the child,” which is quite susceptible to different interpretations depending upon each parent’s point of view.  This issue can give rise to prolonged and expensive litigation with the appointment of expert psychologists, counselors, and a Guardian ad Litem (the child’s lawyer), if the issues warrant such appointments.  If parents cannot agree on the custody and timesharing of a child, then the Court, with the assistance of counselors at Family Court Services, and/or one or more the professionals detailed above, will make the decision for the parents.  Parents generally are much better served working through and resolving custody and timesharing issues together (keep the control in their hands), than allow a Court to decide. Moreover, children suffer during a custody battles.

Bristol Family Law makes every effort to assure that children do not suffer and that our client has time with his/her children.  Our priority is protecting the interest of the children involved in this difficult process, while helping a parent make the most informed decisions.  Our goal is to negotiate an arrangement that is in the best interests of the children.  If this is not possible, we are fully prepared to present the most effective argument to the Court.


Child Support

Child support is computed pursuant to the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines.  The guidelines are strictly followed by the Court, except in very limited situations.

Child Support is based upon the time a child spends with each parent, each parent’s gross income, and child related expenses–such as monthly medical, dental, and vision insurance, daycare expenses, and other extraordinary child expenses.

If one parent has a child over 65% of the time, the court will use worksheet A to reflect primary physical custody with one of the parents.  If not, the court will use Worksheet B which reflects a more equalized time-sharing between the parties.

If you want to calculate child support, use the Child Support Calculator and follow the steps discussed on the webpage.  Assuming you have entered the correct information, the Child Support Calculator will produce a figure that may be close to what a Court would determine.

Contact us to discuss child support and to determine the amount of child support for setting initial child support or modifying an existing child support order.  Additionally, if a parent ordered to pay child support has failed to make child support payments as ordered, contact us to discuss how to seek judicial intervention to obtain child support.


Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce replaces the combativeness of litigation with a cooperative process that gives families resources and options unavailable in traditional divorce models.  Collaborative Divorce strives to preserve the emotional and financial resources of the family, while achieving an agreement that considers and respects the welfare of everyone in the family.

In the Collaborative Divorce process, the divorcing spouses sign an agreement that they will not go to court to resolve their differences. Both spouses works with a Collaborative Team, which helps and guides them through their divorce. Each spouse is represented by a collaboratively trained lawyer and may also be supported by other collaboratively trained neutral professionals such as child and family specialists, divorce coaches, and financial specialists. The number of collaboratively trained professionals on a team depends on the level of cooperation between the parties, their willingness and ability to commit to a healthy divorce, and the complexity (emotional and financial) of the case.


Divorce

Divorce is stressful.  Bristol Family Law understands that the decision to divorce is difficult, and must must be handled carefully, and with attention to detail.

We handle a full range of matters related to divorce with the commitment to secure a fair resolution for our clients.  During the divorce process many issues will arise, including many complex issues.  These issues can include child custody, child support, spousal support, division of property and debt.  After the divorce is final, post-divorce disputes may arise, such as modification of child support and custody orders, orders regarding the sale of property, or the enforcement of prior orders of the court.  We are fully prepared and will provide competent legal representation pertaining to any of these issues.

Bristol Family Law helps our clients through this difficult time.  During the dissolution process, we work to reduce conflict and help clients make the best legal choices. Our priority is to ensure our clients know exactly what to expect throughout the divorce process. Knowing what to expect can lessen the stress and provide clarity when critical decisions must be made. We explain the different process options specific to each case and provide recommendations appropriate for each case and client. We are thoughtful in protecting marital and parental rights, ensuring each matter is given appropriate consideration and attention.


Domestic Violence

Bristol Family Law helps clients obtain an order of protection (also called a restraining order), which provides protection from harm by a household member.  The order of protection protects you from abuse by a spouse or former spouse, parent, present or former stepparent or parent in-law, grandparent, grandparent in-law, stepchild, grandchild, co-parent of a child, or a person with whom you have had a continuing personal relationship (e.g. dating). The parties do not have to live in the same home to be considered household members. In fact, in situations of sexual assault and stalking, an order of protection can be issued regardless of the relationship between the alleged victim and the abuser.

An order of protection is designed to stop violent or harassing behavior and protect you and your family from the abuser.

If a household member has caused you physical harm, severe emotional distress, threatened you so that you fear bodily injury, criminally damaged property, has repeatedly driven by a residence or work place, harassed you over the telephone, harassed you, or harmed or threatened harm to children, then contact us to discuss the option of pursuing the entry of a protective order.

If a member of your household is seeking an order of protection against you, contact us to discuss how we might work with you to address the issue.


Grandparent Visitation

New Mexico provides for grandparents who have been cut-off from their grandchildren by the parents of the grandchildren.  Bristol Family Law can discuss with you options for obtaining visitation and reconnecting with your grandchild.


Guardian Ad Litem

Guardian ad Litem


Kinship Guardianship

If a family member has left their child with you for an extended period of time, and you want to continue to care for the child, you may be able acquire guardianship over the child through New Mexico’s Kinship Guardianship Act.  The Kinship Guardianship Act is meant to address situations in which a parent has left a child with another person for more than ninety (90) days without “appropriate care, guidance, or supervision.”  If you are appointed the legal guardian of a child, the parent’s rights are temporarily suspended and transferred to you, which means you are responsible for caring for the child as if he or she were your own–such as making medical and educational decisions.

Bristol Family Law will assist you throughout the Kinship Guardianship process.


Mediation

In Family Law mediation, parties meet each other on a level playing field with a professional mediator who serves as a neutral third party to facilitate reasonable solutions to all the issues that need to be decided. Mediation may not be appropriate for all parties and may not resolve all issues. In many cases, through mediation, parties will resolve all issues; while in other cases, parties may resolve some issues through mediation and other issues at trial. Yet, even with very contentious parties, the mediation process often works, and parties are surprised when they find common ground and arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement.

The benefits of mediation include: control over the outcome, savings in time and money, privacy, less stress, no court appearance, no prolonged legal battles, and less strain on children. Many parties opt for mediation as an effective way to resolve their legal concerns. Unlike depending on a court’s ruling, parties have control over the agreement reached in mediation. In mediation, you have the ultimate say. You can suggest ideas to the mediator and develop or respond to ideas suggested. Many people who participate in mediation are very satisfied with the results because they had a chance to create their own solutions. Aside from saving time and money, mediation produces psychological benefits to the family. Studies indicate that children recover more quickly from the stress of a divorce when the parents use mediation. The number of couples who return to court after mediation is less than one-third of the number who obtained litigated divorce settlements.

Bristol Family Law advises clients participating in mediation.  We encourage clients to settle disputes and provide advice about arriving at a thorough mutual agreement through mediation, which is cost-effective, time-saving, and a healthier option to a traditional litigated divorce.


Parentage Actions

Parentage actions generally involve parents who were never legally married and want a child’s paternity, custody, and timeshare addressed in a legally binding order.  Either the mother or the father of the child may file the Petition to Establish Parentage, Child Support, Custody, and Timeshare.

Bristol Family Law will help you to obtain an order that legally establishes parentage, sets ongoing child support, and sets out exactly what timeshare the child will have with each parent.


Prenuptial & Post-Nuptial Agreements

Couples may ask, “Why sign a prenuptial agreement?” A prenuptial agreement is designed to save litigation time and costs in the event of a divorce.  Prenuptial agreements offer peace of mind, clarity, and security.  The agreements allow two people contemplating marriage to enter into a clear written agreement, which controls how certain financial matters will be dealt with during marriage, upon death, and in the event of a divorce.  Knowing what to expect can strengthen a marriage.

Prenuptial agreements identify property brought into the marriage, control how income acquired during the marriage will be handled, and manage separate property.  Prenuptial agreements also may include provisions for the division of debt, division of real property, medical coverage, life insurance, and the payment of spousal support upon dissolution of the marriage.  During the marriage, spouses also my agree to affect their marital rights in a post-nuptial agreement.

New Mexico laws pertaining to these agreements are complex, and navigating the law requires experience and attention to detail.  These agreements must meet many requirements to be valid under New Mexico law, and we use precision, experience, and care to ensure the requirements are met.

We regularly draft prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, and bring necessary experience and knowledge to our client’s agreement.  Furthermore, we understand the sensitive nature of these negotiations and are skilled at protecting our client’s interests in light of their future or current marriage.

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