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There are two primary forms of child custody in Massachusetts. Physical custody establishes where the child(ren) will live during particular time frames and legal custody establishes which parent (or both) has the authority to make decisions on such things as schools, doctors and religion for the minor child(ren). If the parties are unable to agree on the physical and legal custodial arrangements of the child(ren) the court will enter orders based on the best interests of the child(ren). The Court will look at many factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest and the following may be some of the factors considered:
- The age, sex, and development of the child;
- The child’s present state of adjustment in the home, school and community;
- The present relationship of the child with parents, siblings, extended family, and any other person who significantly impacts the life of the child;
- The expressed preference of a mature child;
- The mental and psychosocial health of the child and the parents;
- The economic, physical, and emotional environment of each parent’s home.
Based on these and many other factors the Court can award the following types of custody:
1. Sole legal custody – The Court awards one parent the rights and responsibilities to make all major decisions regarding the child’s welfare including matters involving the child’s education, including private school and college, religion and medical needs.
2. Shared legal custody – The Court awards both parents the rights and responsibilities to make all major decisions regarding the child’s welfare including matters involving the child’s education, including private school and college, religion and medical needs. Generally the Court will grant shared legal custody unless it is found that a shared arrangement is not in the best interests of a child or that the parents do not have a history of cooperation involving matters concerning a child.
3. Sole physical custody – The Court rules that a child will reside with and is under the supervision of one parent, the custodial parent, subject to visitation by the noncustodial parent. The Court can also rule that the noncustodial parent is not allowed visitation if it would be in the best interest of the child.
4. Shared physical custody – The Court rules that the child have equal periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent.
Child Relocation – Massachusetts Relocation Attorneys
If there is a court order in place pertaining to custody and visitation and a party wishes to change the order then that party must seek a Modification in court. Sometimes a parent may want to relocate for financial or emotional reasons, such as the desire to move back to their hometown to be closer to friends and family. Other situations include remarriage or job advancement that requires relocation. When a custodial parent wishes to relocate they must seek a modification of the custody judgment through the Court and moving away with the minor child(ren) without requesting a modification can create trouble for the custodial parent. During the modification the Court will review the possible arrangements regarding custody and visitation. A move can impact the visitation/parenting rights of the non-custodial parent as well as the minor child(ren) who will no longer have both parents nearby. The Court will decide based on the best interest of the child and will often appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to assist in the investigation. It is important that you contact a Massachusetts parental relocation attorney to assist you in addressing the legal aspects of relocating.
Mandatory Parent Education Program
Parents with minor children involved in a divorce are required by the probate court to attend an approved Parent Education Program. Parents must register to attend the program within sixty days of the date of service of the Complaint for Divorce and must attend the next available class. The parents are not required to attend together. Attendance is mandatory for parties to divorce actions but may also be required for parents in any case involving visitation, custody, or support of minor children. A list of approved programs is available at the registry of probate or online.
Contact Our Child Custody Attorneys
It can often occur in a divorce proceeding that both parents are determined to be equally fit to have primary custody of the child. When this occurs, the courts will look at the best interests of the child. If one parent has been caring for the child and the other has been working to financially support the family, the courts may give thought to this to help maintain stability and consistency in the child’s life. Or if the child is determined by the court to be emotionally and intellectually competent enough to make the decision about where he or she would like to live (usually in the case of older children), the courts will take these preferences into account as well. There could also be a situation where one parent does not wish to be heavily involved in the child’s life. These are all important issues that our experienced custody attorneys can discuss with you at length to come up with the best plan of action to ensure your children receive the best possible love and care as they grow up.
Contact us if you need a child custody attorney who will work with you regarding your divorce. Our attorneys concentrate in Massachusetts family law matters including complex child custody matters. We serve the entire Boston North Shore region including Beverly, Marblehead, Peabody, and Salem, Massachusetts.
If you have further questions or concerns regarding a child custody issue, do not hesitate to contact us with questions. We have the experience and legal knowledge you need to get the results you desire.