New Mexico Child Custody Grounds for Termination of Custodial Rights

By Kara Chance

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A court order that terminates custodial rights can have a permanent effect on families. A termination order means that a parent no longer has the right or responsibility to custody of a child. In New Mexico, there are three grounds which the court considers before issuing termination: abandonment, ongoing abuse or neglect, and relationship with another caregiver. If the court finds that one of these grounds is met, it may order termination.


A court can terminate child custody if the parent abandons the child. Abandonment is parental conduct that implies a conscious disregard for the obligations owed by a parent to a child. The New Mexico Child Abuse and Neglect statute defines abandonment as: leaving a child with others, including another parent, without money and without communication for a prolonged period. If the child is under six years old, this prolonged period is three months. If the child is older than six years, than a parent cannot be gone more than six months or else he has abandoned his child.

Ongoing Abuse or Neglect

The second grounds for termination is ongoing abuse or neglect of the child. To prove these grounds, a person making a termination request must offer evidence showing that the child is being harmed by the parent. The petitioner must also show that attempts that were made by either New Mexico or some other qualified person to fix the conditions leading to the abuse and neglect. If, despite these efforts, the parent failed to make changes, the court will order termination.

Bond with Another Caregiver

The third ground for termination in New Mexico is called the “foster parent bonding” ground. The court may terminate parental rights when a child has been placed in the care of others, including relatives, for an extended period of time. If a bond grows between them, parental custody might be terminated. The court considers the length of time of the relationship, whether the natural parent-child relationship has ended, and whether the child prefers to live with the new family.