Q: How Is Child Custody Determined When Parents Can’t Agree?
A Massachusetts family law attorney can help couples transitioning from “I do” to “I’m done” and work out all the issues that are involved in parting ways and starting over.
When a couple gets a divorce, their property must be divided up between them. In addition, other factors, such as spousal support, must also be worked out. But the most complex and difficult issues often revolve around the couple’s children.
Issues of child support and child custody can be particularly contentious.
Despite it being an emotionally difficult time for the parents– especially in cases where one spouse has been hurt by the other– it’s important for the couple to approach co-parenting arrangements in a mature manner keeping the “best interest of the children” in the forefront.
Unlike the “clean break” that couples without children get after a divorce, couples who have children together generally remain involved in each other’s lives on some level until the children are grown (when child support ends) … and sometimes for life. In deciding child-related issues, the court applies a standard of determining what is in “the best interest of the children”.
Except in cases of neglect or abuse, it is generally in the “best interest of the children” if physical custody and legal custody is split between the two parents.
Physical custody refers to where the children will physically reside – – with one parent or with time split between both parents. Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of the parent to make important life decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, health, religion, and similar matters. Sometimes these decisions are split, made jointly, or made solely by the more reliable parent. Again, each case is determined by what is in the best interest of the child.
Children never benefit when used as pawns in an ugly divorce. Here are some reminders of how to approach the child custody decisions so the impact of the divorce and the upheaval of the child’s life is minimized:
- put your own desires (or need for revenge) aside
- focus on the child’s needs
- limit the changes your child will need to undergo
- keep them in the same schools and activities if possible
- don’t split up siblings if possible
- let them maintain important relationships
- don’t talk down or sabotage their relationship with the other parent.
Of course, sometimes it isn’t easy or even possible to negotiate and agree upon child custody terms– even with the help of skilled divorce attorneys– but the failure to do so means a court will intervene and impose its own determination of parental rights and responsibilities. So, parents could fare worse if they lose control of the decision to a judge.
Even after child custody and support issues have been determined, significant changes in circumstances down the line may necessitate the need for either parent to pursue a modification or enforcement of child custody order. Examples may include a job loss, a relocation out-of-state or out-of-country, incarceration or incapacitation of one parent, and more.
If you help need help with a child support, custody or visitation matter, Hebert Law Offices offers both aggressive advocacy as well as understanding and compassion during your challenging times. Contact us today for an initial consultation.
From our offices in Worcester, we represent clients throughout Massachusetts in all aspects of family law.