Decades of Experience in
Decades of Experience in Custody Actions
Parenting is stressful enough, but when you’re dealing with custody disputes, an uncooperative coparent, child support arrearages, or DCF investigations, it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side. Our lawyers have years and years of experience negotiating and litigating all kinds of custody actions, whether it is establishing paternity, implementing a parenting schedule, custody disputes, obtaining or modifying a child support award, issues of grandparent or sibling visitation, removal matters, adoptions of both minors and adults, guardianship actions, DCF involvement and more.
Approaches To Child Custody Disputes
Legal custody is a term that is used to describe the authority and responsibility a parent(s) or guardian(s) has to make major decisions about that child(ren) which affects their welfare such as their education, religious upbringing, emotional development, and medical treatment. In Massachusetts, the issue of legal custody is treated differently depending on whether the parents were married or unmarried. For unwed parents, the mother automatically has sole legal custody of the child unless and/or until the parties agree or the Court rules otherwise. For parents that were married, it is a very different story. In Massachusetts, the courts typically award joint legal custody to both parents unless there is substantial and compelling evidence of abuse or that the parties will be unable to coparent.
Each of the above custody terms are broken down into two additional categories, sole vs. shared. Here are some examples of each:
- Sole legal custody — One parent has the ability, right and responsibility to make major decisions about the(ir) child(ren), as it relates to education, medical care, religion, and emotional development.
- Shared legal custody — Both parents together, have the ability, right and responsibility to make major decisions about the(ir) child(ren), as it relates to education, medical care, religion, and emotional development. Neither party is able to make a decision regarding the(ir) child(ren) without the other party agreeing.
- Sole physical custody — A child lives with one parent and the other parent has reasonable parenting time; unless the court decides that parenting time wouldn’t be in that child’s best interest. It is very rare that the best interest of a child is represented by not having any parenting time with one/both of their parents, and usually is as a result of abuse, neglect or addiction.
- Shared physical custody — A child has periods when they live with each parent, so they have frequent, regular contact with both parents.
One of the most difficult aspects of a custody case can be trying to come up with a parenting plan that works for both parties and the child(ren). Whether the relationship is hostile, cordial, or friendly, it is important to get a detailed agreement in writing, so a set parenting schedule can be put in place and each parent’s obligations and rights are clearly understood. Of course, there is always room for flexibility, and both parents can certainly agree to a deviation if need be, but having something in writing to fall back on is crucial, especially in instances where your coparenting relationship may not be at its best. Without a clear and concise agreement, there is little recourse available if one party starts acting unreasonably, which is why it is always advised to have an attorney review the language for enforceability. We focus our drafting any parenting plan, to be detailed and one that stands the test of time, so that parties are not forced to come back and relitigate parenting plans, if possible.
For over four decades, we have been representing both unwed and married mothers and fathers in a variety of custody disputes. We have ample experience successfully representing clients in an array of custody matters – removal cases, where one party is seeking to remove the children from the state; cases where drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, or mental illnesses is involved; cases where a party is seeking sole legal custody; amicable cases where parties are hoping to establish a parenting schedule that allows their children to have healthy and ongoing relationships with both parents; cases involving children with special needs; cases involving same-sex couples where one party is not a biological or adoptive parent but still wants parenting time; cases involving parental alienation and reunification; and so much more. We understand that every case has unique needs and will always be there to guide you through the process.
If you’d like to learn more about our experience handling custody matters, please contact our office at 978-263-4160 to schedule a free initial telephone conversation to discuss.
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