Newton Child Custody Lawyer
A divorce can create many challenges. But decisions regarding child custody can be among the more difficult issues parents need to address. Sometimes parents reach an agreement amicably and write up a parenting plan that works for both of them. In many situations, however, the parents remain far apart on key issues.
Turco Legal, PC has represented mothers and fathers in custody disputes for over a decade. Our Newton child custody lawyer can meet to answer any questions you may have,. Contact us today.
Can I Get Full Custody?
Many parents ask about getting “full custody” of their children. Essentially, they are referring to the two parts of child custody: legal and physical. , Legal custody refers to the parent’s authority to make decisions on critical issues, such as medical treatment, education, religious upbringing, etc. Physical custody refers to the children living with you.
Both legal and physical custody can be shared or solely awarded to one parent.
Can I Get Sole Legal and Physical Custody?
Massachusetts judges prefer awarding shared legal and physical custody unless there is a history of abuse or some other concerning circumstances. The real disagreements often arise over the details of the parenting plan, which breaks down the custody details.
The parenting schedule—who gets the children when—is one area of the parenting plan that can lead to disagreement. For example, if the children are in school, will they spend the school week mostly with one parent? And how will the parents divide the summer and school-year vacations? These sorts of details can make it hard for parents to find common ground.
What Factors Does a Judge Consider When Deciding Custody?
Judges can look at anything relevant in making custody decisions, such as:
- The child’s age;
- Whether the child has special physical or mental needs;
- How well the child has adjusted to school and community;
- Which parent has provided for the child before the divorce;
- The child’s wishes, if the child is mature and old enough;
- Each parent’s health (mental and physical); and,
- The importance of providing a stable home to the child.
These factors help judges determine what is in the best interest of the child, which is how judges make custody decisions. In our experience, judges do consider the above factors as well as other factors they think shed light on the child’s current situation.
Does a Judge Consider Allegations of Abuse?
Yes. Under Massachusetts law, past or present abuse creates a rebuttable presumption that the abusive parent should not have either sole or shared physical custody. Any visitation may be supervised as well.
Sometimes parents make an allegation of abuse for the very first time during divorce proceedings. Accordingly, a judge will consider all evidence and determine whether abuse happened. The standard of proof is only “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning more likely than not. This is lower than the criminal law standard.
Even if a judge believes there has been abuse, a parent can try to rebut the allegation by showing that it is still in the child’s best interest for them to have custody—but it may be an uphill climb.
Can Parents Decide Custody Themselves?
Massachusetts courts empower parents to come up with a custody plan between the two of them. For parents who have a good sense of what they want, but need some help reaching a final resolution, they can voluntarily go to mediation.
An attorney is a help during mediation. Even though the process is not adversarial, parents should consider what they really want and how a judge would likely decide the dispute if negotiations fail. A Newton child custody lawyer is an excellent sounding board.
When parents agree, they can draft a plan and then submit it to the judge for her or his approval. Unless the agreement goes against the child’s best interests, the judge will most likely sign it. This last step is critical as the agreement becomes binding at that point.
How Do Unmarried Parents Decide Custody?
In much the same way—unless there is a dispute about paternity. Paternity must be established before a man has parental rights. However, once paternity is established, parents can mediate a dispute or end up in front of a judge litigating what is in the child’s best interest.
How Can a Newton Child Custody Lawyer Help Me?
A lawyer is a big help in negotiations and litigation. But we can also help parents strategize so that they strengthen their case for custody. For example, we may advise a parent against immediately moving out of the family home to avoid harming their custody case. We may also advise a parent regarding temporary child custody orders, which last only for the duration of the divorce. These short-term orders can quickly become the status quo, which a judge won’t want to deviate from.
Speak with Our Newton Child Custody Lawyer at Turco Legal
We have handled multiple custody disputes and can provide legal advice about how best to resolve your dispute. Please call (857) 270-7200 to schedule a time to meet with a member of our legal team.