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fathers’ rights

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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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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Celebrity’s courtroom antics may have damaged his custody case

The custody trial involving media celebrity Alex Jones ended with the father of three losing physical custody of the children to his ex-wife. It’s a rather dramatic turn-around, given that his ex-wife has had only occasional supervised visitation for the last two years. We’ve previously discussed the question of whether or not the bombastic star of “Infowars” could lose custody of his children due to his on-the-air antics. His attorneys effectively dealt with the question of what their client was really like by trying to distance the man from the media persona he’d created. They were successful at keeping most of the media clips from “Infowars” from being shown in court. What they couldn’t control was their client — his own actions in court may have been the undoing of his defense and destroyed what seemed like a solid footing against his ex-wife’s custody case. When first divorced, Jones had enjoyed the support of a slew of professionals. They had declared his ex-wife’s “emotional dysregulation” a danger to the children, stripping her of most of her time with the children. Somehow, the fact that Jones was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, a serious mental health issue, escaped notice. His ex-wife’s current legal team focused on the media star’s disorder and his determination to keep the children and their mother apart. They said that previous experts had missed the classic signs of parental alienation syndrome, where one parent engages in actions designed to encourage the children to disrespect, loathe and even

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Could ‘Infowars’ broadcaster’s custody rights be in jeopardy?

Judges in custody cases have a pretty wide latitude to consider virtually anything that they consider relevant to the child’s best interest. That could be bad new for Alex Jones, the fiery host of the broadcast show “Infowars.” The hyperbolic conspiracy theorist has promoted some widely-debunked claims, like the idea that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was just a hoax and the “Pizzagate” rumor, which suggested Bill and Hillary Clinton were running a pedophile ring through a Washington D.C. pizza place. His rhetoric is often vile, volatile, and openly suggestive of violence. His ex-wife thinks that this is a bad thing for the kids to be around and wants the court to award her (preferably) sole custody of their three children. His attorney says that “Alex Jones the performance artist” is just a persona spouting the rhetoric he supposedly endorses on his show. Alex Jones, the father of three, is supposedly a totally different person. His ex-wife disagrees. She states that his rantings aren’t just about ratings — that they prove he’s both unstable and unfit as a parent. His ex-wife has cited numerous examples of his inflammatory behavior that she feels are indicative of his mental state, including things like challenging actor Alec Baldwin to a fight and alleging that former President Obama founded the Muslim terrorist group ISIS. While the judge in his case has said that she wants to keep the focus on the children and not on “Infowars,” she is allowing clips from the show

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Rape victims can be forced into family court to defend custody

It seems like something that should be impossible, but it isn’t: A woman is raped and conceives a child during the rape. The rapist is convicted of the crime and the woman, whose religion prohibits abortion, gives birth to the child — then has to fight her rapist for custody of the child. This is the reality that is facing at least one woman in Massachusetts. While this victim has gone public with her plight, there are likely countless others quietly facing the same trauma in the state’s family courts. While research is limited, studies indicate that more than 70 percent of rape victims who conceive eventually choose to give birth rather than abort the pregnancy. Laws regarding rape victims who become pregnant during the assault vary widely from state to state. Some offer no protection to victims at all, while a few outright bar a convicted rapist from custody. Many states, like Massachusetts, fall somewhere in between. The current law in Massachusetts was passed in 2014, and it appears to give women more protection than some other states — however, it isn’t without its critics because it actually provides rapists a clear forum that they can use to continue to harass and traumatize their victim. The law allows a rapist to seek visitation and requires the judge to make a determination on the issue. The judge has to consider whether or not the child is of suitable age to have visitation, agree to the visitation, or visitation is in

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Are you the victim of a malicious co-parent?

Divorce and custody battles can get heated and bitter. However, some parents take extreme actions to get revenge on their spouse by turning their children against him or her and in some cases even physically harming the kids. This behavior is often called “Malicious Parent Syndrome,” and in some circles, Malicious Mother Syndrome even though both men and women can be guilty of it. It’s not considered to be a mental disorder, but rather a type of behavior displayed by parents who seek to punish their former spouse or partner at the expense of their children. Parents are determined to have Malicious Parent Syndrome when they display the following behavior in the absence of a mental disorder: — Lie to their children about the other parent. — Deny communication or visitation with the other parent — Seek to alienate their children from their other parent, sometimes using others or even the courts to help them. Malicious Parent Syndrome can include such things as failing to tell the other parent about a child’s game or performance and then telling the child that his or her parent wasn’t interested in attending. Often these parents engage in this kind of alienation on a regular basis. In some cases, the acts are more extreme and even against the law. Parents have been known to deny their children food and tell that their mom or dad was providing enough money to buy it. In a particularly heinous case in 1983, a divorced man set fire

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Mandatory co-parenting classes may be spreading

Learning how to co-parent your children with your ex after a divorce is in many ways like learning how to be a parent all over again — particularly for fathers who may find themselves spending more time alone with their kids than they did during the marriage. If you and your ex have a strained relationship after you’ve gone your separate ways, parenting can be even more challenging. Children are the ones who often pay the price when their divorced parents aren’t able to work together to be the best parents they can. Both physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse, increase in children of divorce. Some states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, mandate that divorced couples take co-parenting classes. Now another New England state may be following suit, if a Rhode Island man is successful in his efforts. The Providence resident says he hopes to speak before the state’s General Assembly next month. He’d like them to form a commission that would study the advantages of requiring divorced parents with kids under 18 to participate in these classes. He’s gotten the support of a number of town managers, mayors and town council presidents. That state has some opportunities for parents who choose on their own to have counseling. However, there aren’t many. He’s hoping that private and public entities can work together to change that. He says he wants the state to provide a “robust marketplace of offerings to help divorced parents co-parent, communicate and collaborate

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Tips for co-parents facing their first holiday season apart

Many Massachusetts parents are facing their first holiday season since their break-up. If you already have a parenting plan in place that outlines how your children will divide their time between their parents, that’s helpful. However, if you haven’t yet started the divorce process, making a holiday schedule can be challenging — particularly if you and your ex aren’t on good terms. The most important thing to remember throughout this season is to minimize stress and uncertainty for your children. They likely already have enough of both. Focus on helping them enjoy the season. Organization is key. The sooner that you and your co-parent can get a plan in place (with the input of the kids, if they’re old enough), the more reassured they will be. Kids are flexible, but they want the security of knowing where they will be spending the holidays. Their friends will all be talking about their plans, and they’ll want to join in. Of course, making plans is just step one. It’s essential to stick to those plans unless unforeseen circumstances arise. Children need to be reassured early on that their parents will keep their word, show up to pick them up when they’re supposed to and return them as scheduled. It’s important to set reasonable expectations for your children. They may have a fantasy that their parents will be together for Christmas and maybe even reunite. If they’re going to be splitting time between homes, emphasize the positives (two Christmas trees, for example). Don’t

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