Disputes over child custody can be some of the most costly to deal with. By costly, we're not just talking about legal fees. Consider the impact that a custody battle will have on you, the other parent, and the real possibility– if not probability – that such a custody fight will harm your children. Fighting over control of your children can easily spiral out of control. It's best to avoid it if possible and focus on determining a workable parenting plan that works for your kids and both parents. Remember, children thrive when they have loving and supportive relationships with both parents. Discover how suitable child custody lawyers can positively impact a strenuous situation.
Don't let issues of control, revenge, or gamesmanship enter into issues surrounding your children. If your lawyer suggests those things, we'd suggest finding another Norfolk County Family Law Lawyer. If there are real safety issues and other factors involved – including sheer unreasonableness – then you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing a custody trial.
The good news is that in many families, parents try to do the right thing for their kids and work towards a custody arrangement that supports the children and provides quality parenting time with both parents. Experienced child custody lawyers & divorce mediators can help couples craft a parenting plan.
Finally, the trend in Massachusetts is to avoid the traditional terms such as custody and visitation. Divorce Agreements are more likely to use the term “parenting time” when describing the children's schedule. These descriptors can sometimes cause parents to be confused and more positional in their negotiations, thus creating more conflict. You may see these terms in some of your legal documents, but what is most important is that your agreement sets forth the parameters of your parenting plan with enough detail that both parents are clear on the details. Under the best of circumstances, parents will support each other as co-parents, maintain flexibility, and communicate respectfully with one another. That may seem like a tall order, especially when emotions are running high, but aren't your children worth the effort?
Massachusetts Child Custody Law
The overruling legal standard to keep in mind when it comes to Massachusetts child custody matters and the one that judges must consider when deciding custody and parenting cases, is the best interest of the child. Although the legal community and the courts are moving away from traditional custody terms, it is still helpful to understand them, as you'll probably hear them. The best interest of the child standard remains a foundation of child custody law in Massachusetts. Some other terms parents should be familiar with are:
- Sole legal custody – One parent has the right and responsibility to make the major parenting decisions regarding the children's welfare, including medical, educational, religious, and other decisions.
- Shared legal custody – Both parents are mutually involved and responsible for major decision-making related to the child. This tends to be the default, unless specific facts make shared decision-making difficult or unrealistic.
- Sole physical custody – The child lives with and is under the supervision of one parent, subject to reasonable visitation by the other parent, unless the court determines that such visitation is not in the best interests of the child.
- Shared physical custody – When a child lives with each parent at different times, with each parent having frequent and continued contact with the child or children.
Today, more families have two working parents; so try to keep an open mind regarding parenting schedules. It is also a good to remember that parenting plans will evolve as children become older and are substantial changes occur. Don't assume that what works for your friend that got divorced last year is going to make sense for you, your children, or the other parent. Many of the families thriving post divorce (yes previous clients do stay in touch with us more than you might think) have implemented a shared parenting plan, and support each other by communicating about the kids and family/school activities, showing some flexibility, and communicating with each other about work schedules, vacations, etc.
So why do disputes over custody and parenting schedules get out of control in some cases? Here are some reasons:
- A parent pushes for a certain amount of parenting time to manipulate the amount of child support he or she would either pay or receive, not considering the best interests of the children.
- A parent, acting out of anger, resentment, or something else, tries to keep the children away from the other parent.
- One parent disparages or criticizes the other in front of the children.
- A parent or parents use parenting time (custody) as a bargaining chip to force other concessions.
For more information about parenting and custody issues, please our blog section of this website. Massachusetts child custody lawyers and mediators in Medfield, Norwood, Westwood, Canton, Foxboro, Millis, Medway, Dedham, Franklin, Walpole, Dover, and Norfolk, and Sharon, Massachusetts.