Andover Child Custody Lawyer
Few legal issues are as divisive as child custody disputes. When parents divorce—or if a couple has children out of wedlock—a natural concern arises as to where the children will live and who can make legal decisions for the children.
At Turco Legal, PC our Andover child custody lawyer understands how difficult custody matters can be for parents. We use our legal skills to advocate on behalf of our clients during these challenging cases. Not every child custody dispute needs to end up in front of a judge, since negotiation and agreement are possible. But we do everything in our power to arrive at a parenting plan that works for our clients.
Child Custody Options
Under Massachusetts law, child custody has two components:
- Legal custody, which includes the power to make important decisions involving the children, such as medical choices and issues involving the children’s education; and,
- Physical custody, which essentially means having the child physically in your possession.
Legal custody can be shared, with both parents have input, or it can be awarded to one parent solely. Physical custody can also be shared or awarded solely to one parent.
A parenting plan will lay out the framework of legal and physical custody. It will also include a parenting schedule that outlines when a child will generally be with which parent.
Disputes over the details of a parenting plan happen. Even after parents agree to a parenting plan, there will likely be times when the parents will need to be flexible. For example, parents may need to make one-off adjustments to the parenting schedule. This may be to accommodate something like a parent’s birthday or a child’s extracurricular activities. Parents with shared legal custody will also have to cooperate with each other when making important legal decisions, like where the child will go to school.
Reaching an Agreement on Child Custody
Parents retain considerable power to reach an agreement on child custody matters between themselves. There are many advantages in doing so. For example, one advantage is that parents can draft a parenting schedule that fits nicely with their work schedules. Deciding custody matters jointly also creates an incentive for parents to follow through on what they’ve agreed upon, thus minimizing disputes.
Mediation might also help parents find common ground. If mediation is successful, parents draft a parenting plan and submit it for a judge’s consideration. As seasoned Andover child custody lawyers, we can help parents in the negotiation process either through litigation or mediation.
A Child’s Best Interests
Unfortunately, some parents cannot agree about child custody matters. Maybe anger over the breakup of the marriage impedes their ability to listen. Other parents regrettably use their children as a weapon against the other. Regardless of the reason, in such cases, mediation and negotiation may be unsuccessful. And so the dispute must go to court.
Judges are required by Massachusetts General Law, Section 31 to make legal and physical custody determinations that would promote the child’s welfare and happiness. They may consider the following factors.
- The child’s needs, whether physical, emotional, or mental. These needs can include the child’s ties to the community and school, and can include the child’s preference, if he or she is old enough.
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs. A judge will look at each parent’s physical and mental health, and could also consider which parent has historically taken care of the children.
- Each parent’s willingness to promote the child’s relationship with the other parent. Some parents attempt to alienate the children from their exes but judges seek to avoid this scenario.
- Any past or present abuse committed by a parent. Judges presume that a parent who abused a child should not have custody.
No one factor completely controls the judge’s analysis. Instead, a judge looks at all relevant factors.
Each parent can submit a preferred parenting plan to the judge. The judge can then choose between them or develop a third option that incorporates parts of each parent’s proposal.
How a Lawyer Can Make a Difference
In addition to helping parents negotiate custody, a skilled Andover child custody lawyer can gather and present compelling evidence at a hearing. If a judge must make a custody determination, then we seek to provide a full picture of each parent and argue what is in the best interest of the child. This can include presenting relevant information that shows why the other parent may be unfit to have legal and/or physical custody of the children.
We also prepare our clients for their day in court. We anticipate what questions the other side will ask and craft a litigation strategy that will put you in the best legal position possible. . One reason to engage with an attorney early is to plan for litigation. There should be no surprises if we end up in court.
Speak with Turco Legal Today
Child custody is a sensitive issue, but we provide a confidential consultation with one of our Andover child custody lawyers to help parents decide whether they want to hire us. The sooner we meet, the better we can prepare for your child custody dispute. Please call us today at (978) 699-0040 to learn more.