Child Custody Arrangements in Massachusetts
In determining custody arrangements, chief concerns are the welfare and age of
the child. Physical custody
determines the child's residential living arrangements. Legal custody
refers to the rights each parent has with respect to medical, religious,
educational and other needs of the children. In the
past, younger children were thought to be better off in the care of a mother
rather than a father. Now the court gives equal consideration to each parent.
The courts are more likely to weigh the request of each parent for custody
equally if the fathers has participated actively in bringing up small children.
A child of approximately fourteen years of age may be considered by the court to
have reached a sufficient age to make an intelligent choice, regarding with whom he
or she prefers to live. While a child's preference is carefully considered by
the judge, it is not binding upon the court.
The court may award joint legal custody to both parents but award physical
custody to one parent. This means that both parents can make certain decisions
regarding the children, but the child lives primarily in one home with that
parent making the daily decisions regarding every day life. The parents must be
able to get along and communicate well in order for there to be joint custody.
The ability of the parent to promote the best interests of the child in making
an award of custody is one of the most important factors in a custody decision.
The court can change custody, according to the best interests of the children at
any time until they reach the age of 18.
For professional advice in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts Bar Association's
Service at (617) 654-0400
or 1-800-392-6164 (from outside the Boston area).
Helpful resources for resolving child
|What if we agree about
custody and visitation?
If you and the other parent have
already come to a fair agreement on the custody and visitation issue, you
may want to write your own "stipulation" and consent order. A
"stipulation" is a statement describing the agreement that you
have reached. A consent order is a draft for the judge to sign if s/he
agrees to accept your agreement. this means that the court can enforce the
agreement in the future.
If you choose to go this route, you and the
other parent should be as specific as you can to avoid future conflicts.
You should ask yourself, who has legal custody? Which holiday does the
child spend with you? What time and where may the other parent pick the
child up? What time should the child be returned home? What is the
procedure to follow if either of you are running late and won't be there
on time? How much notice should you be given if they are planning a
vacation? How far away may the other spouse move? What you might think you
can figure out as you go along could actually blow up into a full scale
war later. The Stipulations should state everything that you have
agreed upon. You should not rely on any oral promises. If you both
agreed on it, write it down (no matter how trivial it may seem now).
Technology offers some innovative and
creative ways for parents separated from their children to connect.
visitation is coming to be recognized by the courts as a potentially
important way to supplement in-person visits.
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