Information About How Custody is Determined in Massachusetts
When a court is left to decide custody, the judge uses what is called the best interest standard – decisions about parenting and custody are based on the best interest of that particular child in that particular situation. There are no absolutes, such as fathers shouldn't have custody, being gay means you are a bad parent, or working means you should not have custody. The court looks at the specifics of your family's situation and makes a decision based on what is going to benefit your child the most.
Common Threats in a Custody Case
In the early stages of the divorce process, it is common for one spouse to tell the other about his or her decision to divorce and for one of the panicked parties to call our firm, telling stories about how they were threatened by their spouse.
"I will tell the court about your behavior and you will never get the children," is usually how the spouse being told about an impending divorce reacts in an attempt to scare, intimidate, or get back at the one who wants to leave. The angry spouse threatens to reveal affairs, or perhaps that you smoked marijuana five years ago, that you have seen a therapist, are on anti-depressants, that you drink two or three glasses of wine every day, or any other threat that they can think of. Typically these threats have little to do with the best interests of the children and will not be seriously considered by the court.
Children are believed to be more attached to the parent who is their primary caregiver – the one who bathes and grooms the child, plans his or her meals and prepares them, buys clothes and does laundry, takes care of his or her health care arrangements, teaches the child, and participates in the extracurricular activities. Because the emotional bond is deemed to be so important at certain young ages, it is very common that judge rule in favor of the primary care giver especially if the child is very small. To start outlining your involvement in your child's life, fill-out this child care checklist worksheet.
Custody Disputes in Paternity Cases
One-out-of-four children are born of unwed parents. When couples are not married, the case is called a paternity case instead of divorce. Once challenged by the father, custody disputes in paternity cases are treated exactly the same as divorce cases by the Probate and Family Court. Therefore, whether you are married to the other parent of your child or not, everything our attorneys do can be effective in getting you custody of your children.
Factors That Judges Consider
The court considers each litigant's parenting skills, history of wrongdoing, mental and physical health, stability, and the ability to create a warm and loving home for the child. Each parent's schedule and work commitments are considered, but usually only as it relates to the parenting schedule. It makes no sense to give parenting time to a parent on Saturday if that parent works on Saturday.
Some judges are particularly interested in how willing a parent is to assist the other parent in maintaining contact with the child. Purposely keeping the other parent away from a child is interference, can be viewed as grounds for a complete custody reversal, and is a major factor relating to issues of removal cases.
How to Showcase Your Parenting Skills
One of the first things our attorneys would recommend you do is buy a cardboard file box, a box of file folders, and start creating a separate file folder for each of the following categories of information: letters and e-mails written between parents, school report cards, school work, attendance records, records of field trips and extracurricular activities, school awards, medical and dental records, vacation photos, a month's worth of living expenses, proof of a second phone line or cell phone showing your children's ability to call their other parent, greeting cards, etc. These are the types of documents you'll want to enter into evidence when proving how you should be an active parent in your child's life.
Involved in a Custody Battle? You MUST Retain Experienced and Aggressive Legal Counsel
Child custody laws in Massachusetts give a lot of discretionary powers to the judges presiding over case, and one can never predict outcome of a custody dispute.
An experienced attorney will understand what factors the court will consider in making a custody determination and can clearly articulate your interests, rights, and how they relate to the best interests of the child.
Clients Ask Us, "Will the Fact That I Don't Have a Job Affect My Ability to Get Custody?"
Custody is not determined based on who has a job and who doesn't. It is decided by looking at what is in the child's best interest. Children usually remain in the custody of the primary caretaker unless circumstances indicate otherwise. If you provide a better home environment and relationship with your child, you will get custody or a better part of the schedule. Be careful about feeling that one parent should win, and the other lose custody. Think more in lines of a co-parenting plan that would best work for your child.
Will an Affair Impact Who Gets Custody?
Custody is decided based on what is in the best interest of the children by considering each of the parents' lifestyles, home environment, work schedule, parenting skills, and history of child rearing. An affair would matter if the children were present during inappropriate times, or if they were placed in an unsafe or inappropriate environment.
Our Team of Experienced Boston and North Shore Custody Attorneys Almost Exclusively Handle Custody Matters
Massachusetts Family Law Group is a team of experienced, aggressive, and well-coordinated attorneys who provide intensive child custody, parenting plan, and child-centered litigation associated with divorce.
Our statewide brain trust of attorneys, experts, and staff work around-the-clock, and you can be assured that your case is being monitored from beginning to end, with critical landmarks noted and addressed at all times. Our "team approach" assigns specific responsibilities to both lawyers and staff members to ensure that all legal and administrative functions are resolved on time and in keeping with our client's needs and goals.