Child Custody Lawyer in Massachusetts
Custody pertains to the care of the minor children. Legal custody refers to the parent's authority to make decisions relative to the children's education, health care, and emotional, moral and religious development. Physical custody pertains to where the children shall primarily reside. Recent trends in physical custody include a shift away from the conventional every-other-weekend and one-night-per-week visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent to shared parenting plans. Shared parenting plans can amount to each parent having the children for one-half the week, e.g. Dad has the children from Sunday morning to Wednesday night and Mom has them from Wednesday night until Sunday morning. The courts and parents are creating different physical custody plans to offset the often burdensome cost of child support. In some shared physical custody cases, no child support or ordered at all.
The Court considers what the best interests of the children will be when determining the appropriate custody arrangement. Initially, the parents are held to be equally qualified to provide for the happiness and welfare of their children unless there is proof of abuse or neglect at the hands of one of the parents or some emergency conditions. The Court considers whether or not the children’s present or past living conditions adversely affect his physical, mental, moral or emotional health. The Court also considers whether any member of the family abuses alcohol or drugs, whether the children have been deserted or neglected by either parent, and whether the parents have a history of cooperation in matters concerning the children.
In some cases, each parent declares that the interests of the children are better served when the children reside with them. This often happens when both parents work full-time but equally share caring for the children. For example, Mom has breakfast and drop-off duties and grocery shops and does laundry when Dad leaves for work at 5:30 a.m. Dad picks up the children from school and ensures that their homework gets done, takes them to soccer and skating practices, feeds them dinner and puts them to bed while Mom works the afternoon and evening shift. Both parents take the children to the doctors for regular and sick visits, and both attend school-related meetings. Unfortunately, this scenario also includes allegations by each parent against the other that they are physically abusive or neglectful, or abuse drugs or alcohol. In such an instance, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed – at the cost of the parents – to investigate the lifestyles of the parents and the welfare of the children. The GAL will conduct interviews of all interested parties and other witnesses, and provide a written report to the Court. If the parties cannot settle the custody issue thereafter, a trial will be conducted. The GAL will testify about their investigation and report and the Judge will make a determination based on all the evidence presented at trial.
It is important for the parties to remember not to disparage one another in front of the children, to not discuss the proceedings in front of the children, or use the children to convey messages to each other. The children have only one mother and one father, regardless of how each parent feels about the other. Though often difficult, the parents need to encourage the children to have a relationship with each parent.
The Best Interests Standard
Custody decisions are based only on the needs of the children – their welfare and happiness, not those of the parents. Judges have a great deal of discretion in making this decision, and must consider any adverse effects the children's present or past living conditions may have had on their physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.
Woburn Family Kathleen Black Reynolds, Esq. will provide the legal support, knowledge and skills you need. She passionately advocates for her clients to obtain the best possible solution in an economically efficient manner. She will consult with you throughout the process to answer your questions, and give you realistic and practical explanations of your options.
If you have children, Kathleen Black Reynolds, Esq. understands that their best interests coincide with your need to be financially and emotionally secure during and after the process so that you can provide for them. When you are vulnerable, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side so that you are not taken advantage of by your spouse and/or the legal process.
Conveniently located in Woburn center, for a complimentary child custody consultation:
Call - 781.935.7100
Disclaimer - The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.