Disputes between parents and other family members over children can be stressful and highly emotional for everyone involved, including the children. The attorneys at Reade & Reade apply our extensive experience in these difficult cases and will help you understand how the system works, and establish parenting plans that are considered to be in the “best interests of the children,” which is the legal standard for child custody in Massachusetts. It is equally a difficult task for the Court to determine the best interests of the child, but our experienced, compassionate attorneys will work to achieve your goals for your children.
The custody of a child is divided between legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to the major legal decisions regarding your children, including medical, legal and education decisions. Legal custody is generally shared between parents unless one or both parents are unable or unwilling to make those decisions, or if it is in the best interests of the child for only one parent to make those decisions. Physical custody of the child determines who handles the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for the child. Physical custody can be given solely to one parent (“sole”), to both (“joint”), or something in between (“primary”). Custody is determined by considering the best interest of the child, such as:
- Historical primary caregiver
- Continuity of life for the child
- Domestic abuse against the other parent and/or the child
- Physical and mental ability of the parent to care for the child
- Financial ability for the parent to provide care for the child
- Relationship with siblings
Child visitation – The Parenting Plan
Historically, the courts would award physical custody to one parent and periods of “visitation” to the other. However, the courts have transitioned to defining a parenting plan where each parent has parenting time with the child determined by the ability of each party to parent, and the needs and schedule of the child. Apart from extreme circumstances, the courts seek to promote a relationship between both parents and the child. We help our client’s develop parenting plans that are in the child best interest and best promote the relationship with the parents.
The amount of child support is determined by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines considers both parties’ gross income, health insurance, child care costs and other child support obligations. Child support determinations can be difficult with self-employed parents, parents working “under the table,” parents working in a cash industry, or parents who are working for less then their capabilities. Our attorneys have successfully handled cases on both sides of this argument to establish the appropriate amount of child support, to utilize the court system to obtain payment of a support obligation already established, or to modify previous support orders because of a change of circumstances experienced by one of the parents.
Contact Reade & Reade today for your free initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Call (978) 767-8383 or send us an email. We look forward to working with you.