Speak with Our Westborough Child Custody Lawyer Team

With children being the main focus for many of us in life, it is no surprise that the questions and concerns surrounding this issue often come up when it comes to divorce. Although child custody can appear to be a rather complex issue, once there are a few factors figured out, the rest can and should be a generally straightforward process.

Making a Difference for Our Worcester, Plymouth, Middlesex, Hampshire, Franklin, Suffolk, Essex, Barnstable, Nantucket, Dukes, Bristol, Hampden, and Norfolk County

Suppose you are a parent preparing to divorce your child’s other parent. In that matter, it’s only natural to want to secure as many custody and visitation rights as you possibly can. Unfortunately, it’s easy for some divorcing parents to slip into the trap of using custody as leverage, and this tactic rarely works in any positive way. The right custody lawyer can help you focus on what is most important in your divorce and build a solid case for custody of your children. 

O’Connor Family Law has years of combined experience helping families keep their priorities at the forefront during a divorce or other scenarios where custody issues may arise. In addition,  We know how much it means to you, and it means a lot to us as well. 

Contact our Westborough child custody lawyer today at 774-703-3755 to find out more regarding your specific family needs and how we can help.

Is Child Custody the Same Across the Board?

There are two legal elements of child custody that are determined during the process of divorce. One of them is physical custody; the other is legal custody.

Physical Custody determines where the child will live. There is joint physical custody, where the child shares time living in both parents’ homes, or sole physical custody, which means the child will remain at one home for the majority of the time upon the finality of the divorce. Typically, courts like to see that both parents remain active in the children’s lives, so joint custody is most common. The courts are objective in their decisions but always keep the best interest of the child as the priority, and as they see it, both parents involved while the child grows up is best. This does change, however, if the physical location is of concern (meaning the child will spend an excessive amount of time traveling between homes), if there is a history of abuse, or if one parent is unreliable or unable to care for the children.

Legal Custody covers a wide variety of factors, including educational decisions, religious affiliations, medical care, mental health care, and extracurricular activities. Similar to Physical Custody, Legal Custody can be shared as joint legal custody or deemed as sole legal custody. As in the case of Physical Custody, courts prefer to have both parents involved in making the decisions if they are both capable of doing so and it is in the best interest of the children

Who Can File for Custody?

Either or both parents can file for sole or joint custody of the children, provided they have lived in the state of MA for 6 months (referred to as the “home state rule”). There may be exceptions to this rule when/if the children have lived with a parent in another state prior to filing for custody. If the parents aren’t married, the father must prove paternity prior to seeking custody of the children if the father has not signed the birth certificate.

Is Massachusetts a 50/50 Custody State?

Yes, Massachusetts is a 50/50 custody state. This means that the court will generally award joint physical custody to both parents unless there is a reason why this would not be in the child’s best interests. Joint physical custody means that the child spends significant time with both parents, usually at least 35% of the time with each parent.

There are several factors that the court will consider when deciding whether to award joint physical custody, including:

  • The child’s age and needs
  • The parents’ parenting skills
  • The parent’s relationship with the child
  • The parent’s ability to cooperate
  • The child’s wishes, if they are old enough to express them

Suppose you are going through a divorce in Massachusetts and seeking joint physical custody. In that case, it is crucial to speak with our lawyer. Our Westborough child custody lawyer can help you to understand your rights and to advocate for your child’s best interests.

Do Children Have a Say in Where They Will Reside? 

In the state of Massachusetts, children aren’t generally allowed to “choose” where they want to live until the age of 18. That being said, courts do consider a child’s preference in custody when the child is mature enough to have a knowledgeable opinion. Typically, a child below the age of 12 would need to be incredibly mature for the judge to give weight to their opinion; however, there is no specific age (prior to 18) at which the judge will take the child’s opinion more seriously. The child’s opinion is also not the only factor in the decision; it is just one aspect factored in along with the other items listed above that is taken into consideration upon determining physical and legal custody.

What Makes a Parent Unfit in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, a parent is to be considered unfit if there is evidence that they have: 

  • Abused or neglected their child
  • Abandoned their child
  • Had a violent criminal history
  • Had ongoing substance or alcohol abuse issues
  • Had a pattern of erratic behavior, emotional volatility, and poor decision-making skills