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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to get full custody of your child?

There are two types of custody. 1. Legal custody, which dictates who makes the major decisions such as medical, schooling, etc., and 2. Physical custody: the child’s living arrangement. You officially have full custody of your child when a court order to that effect is issued, which happens either by agreement of the parties or after hearing. If there’s an emergency, the court will hold a hearing within a few days of filing, if not, usually within 3-8 weeks.

2. How to get temporary custody of my child?

You would have to file the necessary documents including a complaint and a motion for temporary orders at the Probate and Family Court. A hearing date is scheduled at which point the custody issue is addressed.

3. How does the judge decide who should get custody?

The judge will consider a number of factors including who the primary caretaker of the child has been, the child’s relationship with each parent, mental health or substance abuse issues with either parent and minimizing disruption, among other factors. Also, if the child is older (usually about 14) the court may take into account the child’s preference. The judge’s goal by law is to do what’s in the “best interest” of the child.

4. Can a custody agreement be changed? How?

Yes, a custody agreement can be changed either by agreement of the parents or if there’s a “material change in circumstance” - a significant change since the last order - warranting a change in custody, either party may file a complaint about modification of custody.

5. What Questions should I ask a lawyer in a custody case?

You should ask whether the attorney’s practice focuses on family law and custody issues, what the attorney’s philosophy is in family law cases, and how the attorney proposes to handle your particular case.

6. Can you talk about your recent child custody case as an example?

In a recent custody case, the parties had been separated for some time. I represented the father. He was very involved in his daughter’s life, but the mother was constantly changing his visitation schedule at her whim and punishing him by withholding visitation. We filed a complaint, litigated, and obtained a very generous visitation schedule for the father.


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