Child Custody Rights in Massachusetts

When you and your partner split up and there are children involved, it can be an emotionally-charged and difficult situation. You should always do your best to minimize disruption for the children, and the goal should always be to make things as easy and smooth for them as possible.

However, you also have to make sure you’re protecting your interests in your child custody case. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, always keep in mind the factors that the court takes into consideration when deciding who gets custody. The court examines each case individually and must decide each case based on its unique facts and circumstances.

There are a number of factors they consider when making their decision: who the primary caretaker has been, the child’s relationship with each parent, which parent is better able to meet the child’s needs, school, community, family relations, whether either parent has mental health or substance abuse issues, any history of abuse or neglect of the child, and history of domestic violence, and the parents’ ability to work together to parent the child are all considered.

The courts may also ask the child directly what his/her preference is if the child is more mature, which for most states is at around age 14.In the past it was very common for the mother of the children to be granted full custody of the children in the event of a split or divorce regardless of the father’s role in the children’s lives.

However, as times changed, and mothers became more involved in the workforce, courts began to recognize that in some cases, the father plays a pivotal role in the children’s upbringing. So regardless of sex, the courts will strive to award custody to the parent who is best suited to handle the responsibility and do what’s in the best interest of the child.

The parent seeking full custody will have to provide evidence to the court outlining why that parent should take on the lead care-taking role. As time goes on however, circumstances change, and custody orders are therefore subject to modification.

For example if a parent suffers an illness or suffers from substance abuse or mental illness that impacts parenting, there may be a change in custody. When those changes occur, it’s advisable to get a consultation to begin planning for a potential court filing. A quality child custody lawyer can help you develop a plan and craft an argument to convince the court that the children spending more time in your care is in their best interest, which is the ultimate factor the court considers when making a decision on this issue.

Things can get a bit more complicated when one parent wants to move out of state with the children. These are called “removal” or “relocation” cases. In removal cases, there are a few things to consider. First, a move out of state will generally require either an agreement from the other party or an order of the court. If there’s no agreement, a complaint for modification must be filed to bring the issue before the court.

The court may allow the move if there is a “real advantage” to the parent making the move and the move is in the children’s best interest. If the custodial parent is moving merely to deny the other parent time with the children, it will be very difficult to get approval. However, if the parent has close family ties in the other state, a good job opportunity, etc., the move is more likely to be allowed. It’s also more difficult to get approval to move the children from the court when physical custody of the children is shared.

Finally, emergency custody orders are available if necessary. For example, if there’s abuse of either the parent or the child, a parent can go to either a probate and family or district court to obtain a restraining order, which allows for a custody order also. Also, a parent may petition the probate and family court for an emergency custody order.

For example, if a parent believes there is a risk that the other parent may flee the state with the child, or if the other parent will do something that may harm the child, the parent may file a complaint and motion for emergency temporary orders. It’s very important to gather and bring with you to court as much evidence as possible to corroborate your account. In summary, there are a number of different considerations and issues in child custody cases.

Most importantly, every case is different. So when someone tells you: “this is what the court does with x issue” or “the court always rules x,” that’s simply not true. Child custody cases are very fact-specific and it’s not a stretch to say that no two cases are exactly alike. When a child custody issue arises, it’s advisable to immediately seek the advice of an experienced lawyer for a full assessment and to put a plan in place as soon as possible, as that will increase your chances of a more favorable outcome.

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