child custody

Can my 14-year-old decide to live with my ex?

As a divorcing parent battling over custody, there is always the fear that your child will decide they would rather live with the other parent. Even once custody has been determined, parents worry as children get older, they will want to move in with the other parent. Rest assured that minor children can’t make legal decisions, such as where they want to live. It is a common misconception that once a child reaches a certain age, they can decide which parent to live with. In truth, those responsible for determining custody are the parents or a judge if the parents can’t agree. Any child under the age of 18 does not have the final say in where they will live. While a judge may consider an older child’s wishes, a child’s opinion is only one factor. Ultimately a judge will be guided by what is in the best interest of the children involved. Some factors considered may include: each parent’s preference each parent’s ability to provide the child with food, clothing, and a safe home the health and mental wellness of each parent and the child adverse effects a child’s present or past living conditions may have had on the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health When determining custody, neither parent begins with any greater right to custody than the other. The final decision is guided by the children’s welfare and happiness. Minor children cannot override an agreement made between parents or by a judge.

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Out of State Child Support Modification

Child Support and Out-of-State Issues Whether one parent is living just over the Massachusetts border in New Hampshire but still commutes to Boston every day, or whether the one parent is living on the West Coast while the children live with the other on the South Shore, issues of state jurisdiction may come into play when seeking to modify a Massachusetts child support agreement. Changing Circumstances, Modifying Orders In Massachusetts, child support is governed either by temporary orders or by final judgments. Temporary orders govern the terms of child support while there is still open legal action in process to establish a final judgement. The term “final judgment” is something of a misnomer. “Final” does not mean that the judgement can never be altered again. A child support final judgment may be renegotiated in the future. This can be done with the agreement of both parents, or one parent may file a complaint for modification if certain conditions are met. The conditions under which one parent can file a complaint for modification to a child support final judgement include: • Changes to the gross income of either or both parents • Unavailability of previously ordered health coverage, either because of job loss or unduly burdensome cost increases • New availability of health care coverage through a parent • Any other material and substantial change in circumstances What to Do When One Parent Lives in a Different State When one parent lives out of state, modifying and enforcing a child support judgment

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Co-parenting in the Face of Coronavirus

Amid the spread of COVID-19, we are all facing unprecedented times. As this pandemic continues, regulations regarding safe practices change daily. One thing on the mind of parents sharing custody is whether or not their court order is enforceable. Rest assured, custody, visitation, and placement are in effect and continue to be enforceable during this period of time. Court-ordered arrangements remain obligatory and should be followed accordingly. Any parent planning to use the pandemic as a reason to deny access to another parent can expect the courts to come down hard on parent agreement violations. Many judges view time of crisis to be particularly critical times for children to maintain some form of normality. In cases where parents are willing to work together, they should consider the following: which parent has better resources for the child to complete distance learning, if one parent has a high-risk job, the health of family members, social distancing rules, etc. In the unfortunate event that a parent is required to self-quarantine or is restricted from having contact with others, efforts should be made to allow for parenting time by video conference or telephone. A critical aspect of co-parenting that may be affected is where the exchange of children takes place. For some parents, the changeover occurs at school. However, if the school is no longer in session, a new location and time will need to be agreed upon. If the exchange is not possible from someone’s home, it’s suggested to find a public place

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Motion to Dismiss Husband’s Complaint for Modification of Custody

Representing former Wife.  Husband filed action concerning care and custody of minor child three years earlier.   Wife previously moved out of state with court permission.   Father failed to prosecute action.  Mother filed a motion to dismiss Father’s complaint under the Massachusetts Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (Chapter 209B §7) and Forum non conveniens (M.G.L. Chapter 223A § 5).   Mother alleged that the action was no longer properly before the Massachusetts, despite having been brought at a time when the parties were living in Massachusetts.  Mother alleged that such an action should proceed in the child’s home state.  The court agreed and the matter was dismissed.

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My Kids Hate the Custody Arrangement – What Can I Do to Make Their Voices Heard?

Even in the best of circumstances, divorce can be difficult for children. Children are often resistant to change: adapting to new schedules and surroundings, learning to live with one parent at a time, and getting along with possible new stepsiblings or half-siblings are all big changes, ones which can challenge a child’s developing social skills and coping mechanisms. However, many, if not most, children with divorced parents eventually adapt and thrive, growing into healthy and well-adjusted adults. There are cases, however, where a child’s discomfort with a custody arrangement goes beyond natural resistance to change, beyond the fairly standard complaints of “I don’t like it here” or “I like dad’s house better.” Perhaps there is serious, ongoing, and frequent conflict between the child and one of the custodial parents, a conflict that makes living with that parent a deeply anxious situation for the child. Perhaps the conflict is with a stepparent or stepsibling and a child’s grades are dropping as a result of the distress. Conflict and negative situations are not the only reason to consider modifying a custody agreement, however. Perhaps, at the other end of the spectrum, a mom can now spend more time with her children because of a promotion that allows her more control over her schedule. Or perhaps a ten-year-old custody agreement no longer works for a fledgling teenager because she prefers to live at her mom’s house as it is considerably closer to her new high school than dad’s, allowing her to participate in

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Common Myths in Massachusetts Family Law Every Parent Should Know

When it comes to divorcing and family law, things get complicated quickly. It’s essential to know your rights regarding your children. Presented here are some common myths every parent should be made aware of during divorce or custody proceedings. Myth: A parent’s failure to pay child support can result in the parent being kept from seeing the children Only a judge can determine visitation rights. If a parent fails to pay child support, the other parent is not automatically given the right to withhold visitation. The Court’s orders for visitation cannot be ignored simply because the child support account is two months or even two years delinquent. Myth: If a parent doesn’t agree with the court orders, they can move the kids out of state Once an action involving custody of children (divorce, domestic abuse, guardianship, etc.) is filed in Massachusetts, neither party can remove a child from the state without permission from the other parent or a judge. This act of moving a child out of state without permission can result in criminal charges. A modification with a compelling reason to move with the children, such as once-in-a-lifetime education, family, or work opportunity, must be filed to remove children from the state legally. Myth: He/She cheated on me, so I should get everything Infidelity is grounds for divorce in Massachusetts, however, in a divorce, a judge must consider many factors in making a decision, including all conduct of the parties during the entire marriage, good and bad. It is

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Complaint for Modification of Custody

Representing the former wife (Mother) in a post-divorce complaint for modification, seeking to modify existing judgment granting husband (Father) joint legal custody and parenting time with two minor children of the marriage.     Mother alleged that Father was abusive, suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.  Mother alleged that Father was incapable of safely caring for the children.  Extensive cross examination of court appointed guardian ad litem.  Result in Mother’s favor.  Mother granted sole legal and physical custody of the children after trial. Father granted restricted supervised parenting time with professional supervisor at Father’s sole expenses.

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Holiday Custody

The winter holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they are also a top contender for the most stressful time of the year. Regardless of family structure, holiday gatherings and visits can be contentious. Under the stress of cleaning and cooking and visiting in-laws, even close-knit nuclear families, amicably divorced co-parents, or happily mixed step-families might experience some tension and conflict around this time of the year. Given the stress of preparing for holidays, and the emotions invested in family celebrations, it is more important than ever for there to be good channels of communication about scheduling. When child custody agreements are involved, communication is even more important, especially if custody arrangements or their enforcement have been contentious issues in the past. Many shared custody agreements drawn up as part of the divorce settlements will specify holiday visitation and custody rights for each parent. For example, one parent may have the children for Thanksgiving and New Year’s, with the other parent having Christmas and the surrounding days. In the next year, the parents might swap time periods, following an alternating schedule laid out in the custody agreement. Changes happen, however. A flight back from a visit to grandma might be delayed by snow. A family wedding might be scheduled for the days after Christmas. A teenager with a mind of her own might want to go to a friend’s cookie-decorating party close to mom’s house an hour away, even though dad has custody for that date.

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