Boston Legal Custody Lawyer
Even an amicable divorce can go south when it comes to child custody. Parents often fear losing contact with their children and they fight very hard to maintain those bonds. In Massachusetts, custody has two components: legal custody and physical custody. Here, we will take a closer look at legal custody.
Put simply, legal custody is the power to make decisions for a child. In most situations, both parents will share legal custody. This means the parents need to work together and agree regarding important decisions having to do with the child. In some situations, however, a judge may award sole legal custody to one parent.
At Turco Legal, PC, our team is dedicated to helping parents navigate the divorce process and what follows. Our aim is to protect our clients right to legal custody of their children, or seek sole legal custody if the facts warrant it.
A Closer Look at Legal Custody
Generally, minors do not have the right to make legal decisions for themselves. Instead, they need parental permission. If you have legal custody, you will have a say when it comes to the following types of issues.
- Education: Which school will your child attend? Will your child participate in extracurricular activities and field trips?
- Medical care: Will your child be vaccinated or undergo surgery? Which pediatrician or dentist will your child see?
- Religious upbringing: Will your child be raised in a certain religion and attend a certain house of worship?
It is important to realize you can have legal custody even if you don’t pay for any of the things mentioned above. For example, your ex might be responsible for covering all medical expenses or school costs. You can still have a say in these issues if you have legal custody.
You will also have a say even if your child is not living with you. For example, you might have physical custody primarily during summer vacation. However, you can still have a say as to whether your child undergoes surgery during the school year.
Shared versus Sole Legal Custody in Boston Divorce
Most parents share legal custody. In our experience, this is the norm for Boston divorces.
However, in a few situations, a judge might find it is in the child’s best interests for only one parent to have sole legal custody. Most commonly, a judge awards sole custody when the other parent has abused or put the child in danger. If one parent got into a drunk driving accident with the child in the car, for example, then a judge may not grant that parent legal custody.
In fact, Massachusetts law is clear that there is a rebuttable presumption that an abusive parent should not have legal custody. A parent accused of abuse can still present evidence showing that it’s in the child’s best interests that they receive legal custody—but it could be a struggle to convince a judge that that’s the case. Another situation in which one parent could receive sole legal custody involves parents who have a history of disagreement. Parents need to be able to cooperate with each other when they share legal custody. Otherwise, shared legal custody could produce more tension and get in the way of what is in the child’s best interests.
Lastly, you may not receive legal custody if you have not had any relationship with your child for years. For example, one parent might have abandoned a family for years before finalizing the divorce. Because the other parent has taken care of the children for such a long time, a judge might only award that parent sole legal custody.
Resolving Disputes When Parents Share Legal Custody
Even when parents get along, some issues can arise that cause the parents to disagree. For example, a child might want to attend a different school, but the parents can’t get on the same page about it. If the parents share legal custody, then someone needs to break the tie between the two of them.
Other disagreements can arise around medical care, such as vaccination. One parent might be opposed to certain vaccines, whereas the other parent might want the child vaccinated. We have seen this issue arise with COVID vaccines.
Parents might decide to mediate a dispute and reach an agreement once they’ve taken the time to listen to each other. The divorce decree might even require that they attend mediation when they have disagreements regarding legal custody. But mediation sometimes fails. Instead, a judge might need to decide the dispute at a hearing. An experienced Boston legal custody lawyer can help present your case to a judge.
Contact a Boston Legal Custody Lawyer Today
If you are divorcing or seeking to establish paternity, speak with Turco Legal today. We often represent parents in these disputes and will analyze your legal rights. We can also assist if you have shared legal custody and are in a dispute with the other parent regarding a legal, medical or other issues. Call us today at (617) 657-4878 for more information.