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Child Custody in Massachusetts

Child custody laws in the state of Massachusetts

For parents, nothing is more important than ensuring their parental role and maintaining active involvement in their children's life. This is why child custody is one of the most sensitive issues facing divorcing couples with children and why it is sometimes the reason behind bitter divorce battles.

If you or your spouse feels that your parental role is being threatened, things could potentially escalate to a long, unpleasant custody battle that puts your child or children in the middle of chaos and turmoil.

Divorce mediation can provide a positive, peaceful process to discuss child custody — a process that allows you to draft a parenting plan that you and your spouse feel comfortable with — and that keeps your child or children’s best interests in mind. Mediation will allow you and your spouse to maintain control of your children’s futures as you determine how to co-parent so that you both remain actively involved after your divorce.

If you are unsure of whether or not divorce mediation is right for you, we invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation in which we can discuss your situation and explore your options.

Call 800-343-2147 to schedule a free consultation or

Schedule a free consultation

Determining Child Custody and Drafting a Parenting Plan in Massachusetts

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, Section 31 describes two forms of custody:  legal custody, which indicates who makes major decisions about the child, and physical custody, which refers to where the child lives.  Both forms of custody are described in greater detail below.

 

Legal Custody (Who has the right to make major decisions regarding the child)

Legal custody relates to who has responsibility for making major decisions about the child's welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.  Parents can agree to either sole or joint (shared) legal custody for each child.  In Massachusetts, joint legal custody tends to be the most common arrangement, but some judges consider sole legal custody if the parents seem incapable of communicating effectively.

Sole Legal Custody - In sole legal custody arrangements, one parent has the right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child’s welfare.

Joint Legal Custody - In joint legal custody arrangements, parents share responsibility for making major decisions about the child’s welfare.  Judges typically prefer joint legal custody because it gives a child the benefit of the parents’ combined judgment by allowing both parents to participate in major decision-making.  With joint legal custody, it can be very important for parents to come up with a plan for how to communicate and make decisions about the child's welfare.

 

Physical Custody (where a child lives) 

Parents can agree to either sole or joint (shared) physical custody for each child. Concerned with consistency and stability in the lives of children, judges might prefer giving sole physical custody to the parent who has been primarily responsible for taking care of the child.

Sole Physical Custody (the child resides with one parent) - Children can spend time with non-custodial parents through visitation, which can be supervised or unsupervised.  Some visitation or parenting schedules are flexible, while others provide for specific drop-off and pick-up times.  Visitation or Parenting can last for a few hours, overnight, or for weeks at a time; a visitation or parenting schedule even might give children equal time with both parents.

Shared Physical Custody (the child alternates periods of residing with each parent)  - The child has two residences, spending at least 35% of their time with the other parent. Additionally, you can make your own special joint custody agreement that is any combination of Shared Physical and Joint Legal Custody. One example of this is called nesting where the parents agree to have one residence for the childrem and the parents live with the children there on a rotating basis.

Stay in Control Over Your Children's Futures - Create a Parenting Plan That Works

By choosing divorce mediation to create an acceptable parenting plan, you ensure that you and your spouse will collaboratively make the decisions rather than allow a judge to make them for you. Through mediation, you will both be able to concentrate on the thing that matters most — the well-being of your children.

Mediation ensures that the final agreement will be in your child's best interest and will allow both of you to maintain your parental roles and facilitate open lines of communication while you co-parent.

Call 800-343-2147 to schedule a free consultation or

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