Parenting Plans & Child Custody

Child Custody Lawyer

In Massachusetts, the child custody laws provides for both shared parenting and sole custody. Parental rights deals with the concepts of shared custody, physical custody, legal custody, visitation and parenting plans. More often than not, one parent is designated as the physical custodial parent and both parents act equally as the legal custodian of the child or children. While there is no legal presumption in favor of shared parenting, it is becoming increasingly favored by newer judges. It is simply an option that the court has, and is often a preferred resolution when the parents can demonstrate a history of, and willingness to continue sharing parenting responsibilities. Shared parenting is not feasible or appropriate in certain cases.

Parenting Plans:

More and more, both parents believe they should be awarded full or joint physical custody of their children. While many judges require a very specific set of circumstances before they will order a shared custody arrangement, the courts are moving toward shared parenting as the preferred outcome. The recent trend has been to eliminate labels such as custody and visitation. Instead, parents enter into comprehensive agreements called “parenting plans”. Such plans are beneficial to the parties and the children because they avoid the stigma of terms such as “non-custodial parent” and “visitation” while expressly stating what is to be expected of both parents.

Child Custody Litigation:

Child custody litigation is legally complex and emotionally difficult for clients. It is necessary when children need protection from a parent or when a parent seeks to alienate the other parent. Child custody trials often require the use of a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or other professionals to assess both parents and the children in order to provide the court with a recommendation.

Divorce and the Children:

Massachusetts standing order 4-08 requires that all divorcing parents attend a parent education course on the effect of divorce on children and adults. The program is five hours and is done in two sessions. Divorcing spouses may not attend the same session. You must have your certificate to be granted a divorce, unless the Court has waived the requirement.

In some circumstances, there are jurisdictional questions as to whether the Court can make orders regarding a particular child. There is a special statute (called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) that has been adopted by Massachusetts and most states in some form) that address these issues. In short, a child has to have lived in a location for at least six months (or from birth if under six months old) to establish that state as his or her home state. If the so-called home state is unclear, the Courts from the competing states will consult with each other to determine which states should handle the matter.

Contact Us For a Confidential Consultation:

Contact our law firm if you have questions about parental rights pertaining to child custody and would like to consult with an experienced family law attorney.

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