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Custody rights affected by choice of venue

When a Massachusetts couple divorces, child custody issues often sit at the top of the list of priorities, and for good reason. Hammering out the details of who will hold legal and physical custody of shared children is an important consideration when a family is divided, and can lead to a great deal of strife concerning custody rights during divorce. However, in an ironic twist, some of the most devastating child custody fights can come from a divorce that was amicable and relatively easy.

When a couple goes through a simple and cooperative divorce, it can seem as if child custody matters will not become an issue. The parties might agree between themselves that the child or children are best cared for by one parent, with the other remaining involved through frequent visits. This scenario may even play out amicably for years. However, if one party changes their mind and brings a child custody action against the other, the status quo can be drastically altered, and the children can suffer.

One example might be when parents divorce and the noncustodial parent moves to another state. After a number of years, he or she might remarry and wish to have the child live with them. During a visit, that parent could begin a child custody action in his or her state of residence, and ask that the child not be permitted to leave the state until the case is resolved. While the other parent would still be able to visit with the child, they would have a long and expensive legal battle ahead, all played out in another state.

While this scenario may seem unlikely, it happens to parents in Massachusetts and across the nation. Custody rights are handled differently from state to state, and being faced with an unexpected custody battle in an unfamiliar state can be incredibly frustrating and expensive. The wisest approach, and the one that preserves stability for both parents and children, is to handle issues of child custody at the onset of the divorce or split. By having a child custody agreement in place, all parties know what is expected of them, and any changes can be worked out in future court proceedings.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Two Big Child Custody Mistakes To Avoid," Bob Jeffries, Dec. 26, 2012

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