Custody orders can provide children stability after divorce.
When parents separate or divorce, it takes a toll on children. Their futures are filled with uncertainty and working out a custody and visitation agreement can go a long way to bring renewed structure into their young lives. When parents cannot agree, you can look to the family court system in Massachusetts to put a custody and visitation order in place that reflects the child’s best interests. A judge will consider which parent has been the primary caregiver, who can provide the most stable home life, their backgrounds and many other factors that impact a child’s day-to-day upbringing. These court mandates can outline the child’s residence and how much parenting time or visitation each parent will have.
I can help you work toward protecting your child’s best interests and get the court order you are looking for. Custody fights are never easy, but we can work together to make the process as smooth as possible for you and your child.
Custody in Massachusetts
The word “custody” encompasses both legal custody (a parent’s decision making power) and physical custody (where the child spends his time). There are many variations to custody orders and it can be a confusing concept for parents who are new to the court system. I can help explain the nuances of custody and custody orders and help you navigate through the system to get the order that best suits you and your child.
The majority of court orders involve levels of shared custody, including legal custody and physical custody. Shared custody means exactly what it sounds like—each parent shares in the parenting rights and responsibilities.
Shared legal custody means that both parents have input into the important decisions that will shape a child’s life. These things include:
- Religious affiliation
- Medical care and treatment
- Moral guidance
Shared physical custody means that each parent spends an equal, or approximately equal, amount of time with the child. The parenting time and visitation schedules vary from case to case and are based on the best interests of the child as well as each parent’s work schedule and the child’s school or activity schedule.
Occasionally, a court will order some form of sole legal or sole physical custody. Unlike shared custody, sole custody is not what it sounds like.
Sole legal custody means that one parent has the exclusive right to make important decisions in a child’s life. Those decisions include religious affiliation, educational decisions, medical care and treatment decisions and moral guidance. Generally, a court will not order sole legal custody unless there is some history of extremely poor decision-making on the part of a parent, or if a parent has been absent for the majority of a child’s life.
Sole physical custody means that one parent has the child for the majority of the time, while the other parent has scheduled parenting time or visitation with the child. Historically, the court would order a visitation parenting schedule of every other weekend and one dinner visit per week. Today, the courts are more flexible in understanding the demands of working parents, the child’s schedule, and the impact of visitation and parenting time on a child.
I can help you design a parenting schedule that suits your individual needs and the needs of your child.
In some cases, a judge will mandate supervised visitation. This is a way to balance the child’s interest in maintaining a connection with the parent when that person poses a danger. In some instances, where a parent and child do not have a bond, the judge may use a supervised visitation schedule until a relationship between parent and child has been built.
Custody orders are always modifiable if you have a significant change in circumstances since the order was put in place. The court understands that people change, schedules change and life circumstances change.
At the Law Office of Michelle M. Murray, we advocate for parents and children in Worcester County to enjoy the most fruitful relationship possible with their child. Let us help you fight for the best situation for you and your child.