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child custody

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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Post-Divorce Custody and Child Support Modification

Representing the former husband.  The parties were married for 22 years.   At the time of the divorce and in all proceedings thereafter, Father was represented by Attorney Gabriel. The parties had four children.  The Father was ordered to pay a substantial amount of weekly child support to the Mother.  A permanent alimony waiver was negotiated through the divorce action, whereby Mother received an additional sum from the Father’s share of the proceeds from the sale of the martial home and forever waived alimony.  After the divorce, Father filed a modification seeking a change in custody of two of the parties’ four children.   The matter went to trial. Father was successful and his child support obligation was reduced.   Thereafter, Father filed a second complaint for modification seeking custody of the parties’ two youngest children.  The matter proceeded to trial.  Father’ complaint for modification was successful. Father’s child support obligation was terminated and Mother was ordered to pay child support to Father.

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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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