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child custody

How do courts determine if relocation of a child to another state during a divorce is acceptable?

In situations where a custodial parent wishes to relocate with a child, the court will determine whether child custody relocation is in the best interests of the child. While a parent is free to relocate out of state themselves without the child or with the permission of the other parent to take the child, the state of Massachusetts requires a judge ruling regarding relocation contested by a parent. Depending on the current custody agreement, the judge has two different processes for determining if relocation is in the child’s best interest. For joint or shared custody the judge will take into account the following: Whether or not the quality of the child’s life will be improved and if the child will endure similar benefits as the parent from the move. Adverse effects of altering visitation schedule and the extent to which the child’s relationship to the non-moving parent will be compromised. How the child’s emotional, physical, or developmental needs will be impacted by moving or not moving. If there is a way to create a new visitation order to allow the non-relocating parent to maintain a close and enduring bond with the child. In the event a parent with primary custody is requesting relocation, the judge will apply what is known as the “real advantage” standard as the child’s well-being is more closely intertwined with the parent’s welfare in these situations. In this case, the judge will examine evidence of economic benefits, availability of extended family, and the desire to relocate

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Is it true that Massachusetts courts favor mothers in child custody decisions?

While it remains a common belief that courts favor, or are even biased for, mothers in custody disputes, this is not the case. The belief stems from past practices and trends in court. When divorce became more common in the 1970s, society, including the judges within it, assumed a gendered division of labor within households. Before women entered the workforce in large numbers, men were expected to be the providers. Women, on the other hand, were seen as not only the primary, but the “natural” caregivers to children. As such, custody agreements tended to favor women as they would, in the view of society, be better able to provide for the emotional and everyday needs of their children. Times have changed though; in marriages, it is much more common for men and women to share childrearing responsibilities. Now, a majority of women work outside the home. Additionally, now that same-sex couples can receive the legal protections of marriage throughout the United States, the 1950s division of labor is even less relevant to custody decisions today. Today, most judges will look at a variety of factors when assigning custody, with the goal of providing for the child or children’s best interest. For young children, this may include providing constancy and stability, perhaps with the primary caregiver. Other factors include the relative income of the parents and their personal histories. Consult with our office today about how to best to gain custody of your children.

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Child Support Guidelines – What are they? How have they changed?

In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth uses Child Support Guidelines to estimate the correct amount of child support to be paid. The amount of support is determined by a set of factors outlined in the Child Support Guidelines and by applying the applicable factors to a Child Support Worksheet. The worksheet is calculated to reflect the amount of money for the benefit of the children that the custodial parent (who the children reside with primarily) will receive from the non-custodial parent. When there is a joint custodial arrangement the worksheet is calculated by having each parent as the recipient and subtracting the difference between the two outcomes. The factors that the guidelines consider are things such as, each parents’ income, the costs for health insurance, the costs for child care, and any other relevant costs. The court can also order the payment of college expense and extracurricular activities. On Friday, September 15, 2017, the Commonwealth will be implementing new Child Support Guidelines. The changes were made by a task force after careful review and consideration of the increased costs associated with raising a child in Massachusetts. Key changes that were made to the guidelines are as follows: 1) Minimum support increased from the 2002 standard of $18.46 per week to $25.00 per week due to an increase in the overall cost of living in Massachusetts since 2002. 2) Actual time spent parenting is not determinative of Child Support. The new guidelines are based on only two scenarios, joint custody and one parent

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Can I bring my significant other or children to my court hearing?

This is often a question that clients ask us. The simple answer is no, we advise against it. But you may be wondering why? We advise bringing a significant other or your children to your court hearing for a multitude of reasons. For one, children are often the subject of the hearing and it would be inappropriate and unfair to the child to be witness to the hearing. If the child is not subject to the hearing, we still advise against having them accompany you because you need to give your full attention to your attorney’s and the hearing. We further suggest that that boyfriends and girlfriends are left at home. Again, in contentious cases there are often accusations thrown about regarding your significant other, to have said person present would potentially lead to more conflict and distraction. So remember, as much as we want our clients to have support, it is better for your case if the crowd of supporters is restricted.

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Social media rants may affect alimony and child support

Social media, Facebook in particular, has become an integrated part of the lives of many Massachusetts residents. Some of us have become so accustomed to sharing our lives online that we update and post almost automatically, with very little thought given to what could happen to that information once it is out of our hands. However, when it comes to issues surrounding one’s divorce, posting is not the best policy, and can actually have serious ramifications for issues such as child support and alimony. Even if you think that your former partner does not or cannot see your Facebook activity, this is not the place to air your grievances about the marriage or divorce. If you make comments online that can be proven false, such as claiming that your ex is not meeting his or her child support obligations, the other party can sue you for libel. Also consider the long-term ramifications; if you post negative things about the other spouse and he or she loses a job because of it, their ability to pay child support or alimony could be severely limited, and they could approach the court to ask for a reduced amount. Another thing to remember is that Facebook is forever. What you write, can almost always be recovered and brought to the attention of a court, even if you have erased it from your news feed. That heightens the risk that a child may one day read the negative things you said about the other parent.

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Fathers face distinct challenges to their custody right

In today’s society, what were once considered ‘traditional’ parenting roles are often reversed, or the lines between the roles associated with motherhood and fatherhood have been blurred. More and more mothers are active in the workplace, and father who choose to stay at home and raise their children are no longer an anomaly. Even in Massachusetts households in which both parents work, fathers play a far more active role in the upbringing of their children than in generations past. Unfortunately, however, fathers who divorce still face challenges when attempting to assert their custody rights. The law is widely known to lag behind social change. While some judges have come to acknowledge and honor the equal role that many fathers play in the lives of their children, this is not always the case. In many custody battles, the mother has an advantage from the very outset, based on nothing more than cultural presumptions. Therefore, fathers who wish to win shared or equal custody must take a string stance from the beginning. Perhaps the most important aspect of winning the right to share equally in the upbringing of one’s children is to assert one’s parental rights as soon as child custody negotiations begin. It may be helpful to chart out various parenting time arrangements, in order to have a visual reference that shows how different schedules would play out over a given month. In some cases, fathers who receive an every-other-weekend schedule could go as many as 12 days without spending time

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Deion Sanders custody decision seen as fathers’ rights win

Massachusetts sports fans may be aware of the custody battle waged between football star Deion Sanders and his estranged wife, Pilar. The former couple has been at odds with one another for months concerning the care and custody of their three children, as well as details of their divorce. A recent court decision in the matter is being heralded as a major victory for fathers’ rights. The pair went before a family court judge to argue for the right to parent their three children in the manner each saw fit. After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence in the case, the judge made a ruling that divides parenting duties between the parties. The ruling grants both parents shared/joint custody of the three children. All three are to rotate between the two households on a weekly basis, whereas the previous arrangement placed the two boys in Deion’s care and the daughter in the care of her mother. Deion will retain the right to make all educational decisions, and will also have control of decisions involving their athletic pursuits. More importantly, Deion will have the right to determine their place of residence, which can be significant in any future hearings on the matter. This case demonstrates that family court judges in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a great deal of leeway in making determinations involving child custody. As long as the best interests of the child or children at the center of a custody dispute are being served, a judge can order a wide

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Daughter returned in emotional fathers’ rights case

The majority of child custody cases in Massachusetts and elsewhere center on two parents struggling over the care and control of their shared children. Family courts see a wide range of custody issues, however, and one recent case demonstrates an unusual scenario. The outcome is being viewed as a significant win for fathers’ rights. The case involves a father whose child was adopted without his knowledge or consent. The man is a drill sergeant in the United States Army, and was transferred out-of-state just before his wife was scheduled to give birth to their first child. His wife, however, had different plans, and arranged to put the child up for adoption just days after her husband left the state. She told the adoption agency that her husband had abandoned the family and had no interest in their child. The adoption agency located an adoptive family and placed the child. When the father found out what had happened to his child in June 2011, he contacted the adoption agency and demanded that his child be returned to him. The agency chose to ignore his complaint, and proceeded to finalize the adoption. The father filed for child custody, and in a recent hearing a family court judge ruled that the child must be returned to her father by Jan. 16. While this case is unusual, it does serve as a reminder of the importance of taking immediate and aggressive legal action when one’s parental rights are threatened, in Massachusetts and elsewhere. This

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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

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The holidays can lead to co-parenting challenges

When families are divided by separation or divorce, parents often struggle over the care and custody of their children. Many custody issues will be worked out during the divorce or child custody proceedings, but reaching an agreement does not always mean that the terms will remain acceptable over time. The holidays often bring out or heighten existing disputes over custody, and can lead Massachusetts parents to struggle and fight over custody rights as they pertain to holiday celebrations. There are a number of ways to handle the holidays when multiple families are involved. In the most cooperative of cases, families are able to celebrate at least part of the holiday together, in much the same way that holidays were handled while the family was intact. This can even include the participation of both extended families. This type of arrangement, however, is rare. More often, the holidays will be divided between parties, with children shuttled back and forth between multiple households. This can be a stressful time for children, and can alter the way that they feel about the holiday season. Parents should try to work together to determine a holiday schedule that puts the needs of the child or children at the forefront. Unfortunately, in many cases existing tensions and old resentments between parents prevent this type of collaborative approach. In such circumstances, it may be advisable to approach a family court to have the holiday schedule determined or augmented. Courts in Massachusetts and elsewhere are willing to consider custody

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