This week, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that if a parent’s parental rights are terminated, his or her financial responsibility for the child is also terminated.
Previously, if the New Mexico Human Services Department terminated a parent’s rights, the parent still had to pay child support to the other parent or the State, if the child was in foster care.
In Colorado, if the Department of Human Services terminates a parent’s rights, the parent no longer has to pay child support. However, if a parent voluntarily relinquishes his or her rights, they still have to pay child support. This distinction is to ensure that parents don’t abandon their children simply to avoid financial responsibility.
However, in New Mexico, because the Court of Appeals created a new rule based on the circumstances of a single case, rather than creating a statute that makes a distinction between voluntary and involuntary termination, parents can potentially end their financial responsibility by giving up their parental rights.
Unfortunately, this may incentivize many parents to simply give up their parental rights to avoid paying child support.
The New Mexico Supreme Court may still reverse this decision. However, until it does, there is no distinction between voluntary and involuntary termination, which may cause significant problems in enforcing child support orders.