What can I do to get 50-50 custody in divorce?
Childhood is the foundation for adult life. Therefore, as parents, we want to provide children with stability, first and foremost, while modeling healthy communication and interactions. Therefore, many divorcing parents enter the divorce process seeking 50-50 custody or, as it is called in Massachusetts, a shared parenting plan.
But having a Massachusetts family court award shared parenting isn’t a given. This is true especially if the child’s other parent is doing everything they can to stop it from happening.
Fortunately, creating a detailed and customized parenting plan in Massachusetts divorces can offer parents seeking a shared parenting plan the best possible chance of getting the time they want with their children after their divorce is finalized. So, if you’re not yet familiar with the concept of a parenting plan and how it can help you get 50/50 custody in your divorce, read on. Having a strategic parenting plan is more important than you may think.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan lays out each parent’s responsibilities in raising their child. And those responsibilities can — and do — vary from plan to plan.
First off, a parenting plan contains basic parenting information such as what physical custody and legal custody involves for each parent. Physical custody refers to where the child will live and how often. To that end, a Massachusetts parenting plan should contain a specific parenting schedule. Many parents find it helpful to create a visual of the parenting schedule to help avoid confusion.
In families with more than one child, there’s a possibility that there could be more than one parenting schedule. Given how confusing multiple parenting schedules can get, it is critical parents outline the children’s schedules in as detailed a manner as possible. Parents, by agreement, can also alter their parenting schedules as children grow and their needs change.
As for legal custody, a parenting plan will define each parent’s decision-making role. Decisions can concern healthcare, education, and religious upbringing, among other considerations. If parents share legal custody on specific issues, they are expected to make decisions about those issues jointly.
Beyond physical custody and legal custody, a parenting plan can address other issues to help parents behave in a manner consistent with healthy co-parenting. Such issues can include the following:
- Introducing a new love interest to children: Parents can agree at what stage of a relationship they will introduce a new love interest to their kids. For example, will it be after three months, six months, or a year? Will the new love interest be allowed to sleep over when the children are present?
- Right of first refusal: Right of first refusal refers to the option given to the other parent when the parent with parenting time cannot care for the child. Before hiring a babysitter, for example, the parenting whose parenting time it is might have to ask the other parent first if they can step in.
- Expenses beyond child support: Child support doesn’t fall under the scope of a Massachusetts shared parenting plan. However, parents can agree to who will pay for specific expenses such as tutors, extracurricular activities, and cell phones in their shared parenting plan.
- Relocation: A Massachusetts shared parenting plan often includes rules for how far each parent can live from each other and what would happen should one of the parents decide to relocate, whether for business or personal reasons.
- Non-disparagement: This is precisely what it sounds like — parents should not speak badly about each other in front of their kids. It should go without saying. But because not disparaging your child’s other parent is so important, a good shared parenting plan will usually say it again.
- The future: I have a pro-tip for parents of young children: The future comes fast. Your shared parenting plan should account for that. What will happen as your child ages? For instance, will they be allowed to walk home from middle school, or will an adult always need to pick them up?
- How to resolve disputes: Again, this is precisely how it sounds: How will you reach an agreement if you and your child’s other parent hit a roadblock? Your shared parenting plan can provide you with options, such as enlisting the assistance of some form of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
Why do I want a parenting plan in my divorce?
Having a strategically drafted parenting plan during the divorce process can support your goal of obtaining 50-50 custody. It can also be the difference between having an amicable divorce and a high-conflict divorce. A high-conflict divorce could potentially land you and your child’s other parent in court. Not only can this outcome prolong the divorce process, but along with it, you can face higher legal bills and added stress.
Going to court takes decision-making power out of your hands and puts it in a judge’s. This reality can cost you 50-50 custody if you’re not properly prepared to demonstrate to a judge — if you have to — your intention and capacity to be a strong co-parent. Having a parenting plan that communicates your objectives by allowing you to co-parent on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis can do a lot to support your motion for a shared parenting plan.
A parenting plan can also keep you out of court by setting the stage early for an amicable divorce, and an amicable co-parenting relationship after divorce, which is a win for everyone involved. A high-conflict divorce can take a toll on the co-parenting relationship you need to have and preserve with your ex-spouse. The reason? The health and wellbeing of your children (mental and physical) depend on it. And not just now. A solid parenting plan (or the lack of one) is the gift that keeps on giving, creating either a stable environment for your children or an unstable one for years to come.
How can I increase my odds of getting 50-50 custody in my divorce?
To increase your odds of getting 50-50 custody in your divorce, you first need to create a parenting plan that will work for everyone involved — you, your children, even your children’s other parent. That said, you don’t want to bite your nose to spite your face.
Instead, you want to create an environment where a court will look favorably on you, giving you the highest likelihood your request for a shared parenting plan will be granted. Here are a few tips that can go a long way toward making that happen.
- Don’t leave the house without a parenting plan in place. You don’t want your exit from the house to be misconstrued by a court that you don’t value your parenting time when you do.
- Spend as much time as you can with the children, and keep a log so you can track it. The idea is to show a consistent pattern of involvement. This is also a reason you may not want to leave the house without a parenting plan
- Be involved in the kids’ schooling, medical care, extracurricular activities, etc. This is the same idea as above — show, don’t just tell a judge what you want.
- Be respectful and civil to the other parent. You should be doing this for your kids regardless, but if that’s not a good enough reason, then do it for yourself. Whatever you do or say can and will be used against you if your ex is so inclined.
- Communicate well with the other parent about child-related issues and save verification of that: This means emails, texts, written notes, etc. Records, folks. Keep copious records.
- Plan to live as close as possible to the other parent (preferably in the same town or at least nearby). Again, show the judge what you want them to know about your intentions toward your child and the parenting responsibilities you wish to have. This increases the likelihood that the court will order a 50-50 schedule.
Hire a Massachusetts divorce lawyer to help you get 50-50 custody in your divorce.
For divorced families, a shared parenting plan can make all the difference in the world for you, your ex, and your children — not to mention, those your children interact with during their adult relationships because children only know what they’re taught.
Having a solid parenting plan is critical for the quality of your divorce, how smoothly it runs, and whether you will obtain the 50-50 custody schedule you seek. It is also important in supporting the life you aspire to have long after your divorce has concluded. A Massachusetts divorce and family lawyer can advise you on what you should and shouldn’t include in your parenting plan, so you have the best parenting plan for your family.
Our Massachusetts team of divorce and custody attorneys is well-versed in creating comprehensive, customized parenting plans to meet the unique needs of our clients and their children. We are here to help. Contact us today.