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Worcester County Child Custody Lawyers
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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.
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. We know how much it means to you, and it means a lot to us as well.
Contact our Worcester County child custody lawyers today at (774) 315-4220 to find out more regarding your specific family needs and how we can help.
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.
"O'Connor Family Law and specifically Lydia Field were amazing throughout my entire divorce process. Lydia was so knowledgeable, responsive, and helpful as we worked through the mountains of paperwork."- Sarah M.
"I am so happy with the services Attorney Khan provided, she came in at the last minute after a previous attorney did not fulfil his duties and she found errors he had made, worked all weekend on a rush to finalize my divorce."- Courtney O.
"LaKeshia Parker Smalls and her team were so wonderful throughout my divorce process. I spoke with a few other lawyers before hiring her who made me feel like a burden with all the questions I needed answers to."- Jessica C.
"Sasha Khan worked with me for 10 months on a child custody modification. She had a difficult case with the opposing party, but was very professional and driven to defend me and give advice through a very difficult time in my life."- Shannon W.
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 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.
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