Child Custody Lawyers in Hanover, MA Assisting Clients with Child Custody Matters
At O’Connor Law Firm, we understand how complex divorces can be, and what a trying time this is for you and your family. Though no two cases are the same, with extensive experience helping families through this chapter in their lives, we are confident we can help you, too. Call the Hanover offices of O’Connor Family Law at 774-214-2137 to find out how we can help.
What is Important to Know Regarding Child Custody?
There are two basic forms of custody, physical custody and legal custody. Both of these can be deemed as sole or as joint (shared).
Physical Custody refers to where the child will reside and spend most of their time. In sole custody, this means that the child/children spend most or all of their time at one home, with parenting time (or not) scheduled with the second parent. If the parents can’t agree on parenting time, the courts will appoint the parenting time and include details as to where and when this will occur, as well as if it is unsupervised or if there must be another adult present. You may feel that sole custody is best for your children, but unless there is compelling evidence stating that the other parent is unfit (through the proven history of abuse, alcohol or drug issues, etc.), the courts generally lean towards having both parents present in the children’s lives.
Legal custody guides the rest of the issues that come up in the child’s life, other than their physical location, such as decisions regarding extracurricular activities, medical and mental health care, religious affiliations, educational decisions, child care, and more. If you are awarded sole legal custody, you are generally given complete authority over making these decisions alone regarding your child’s life. As with physical custody, courts typically want these decisions to be made jointly, keeping both parents involved in major decisions in the child’s lives moving forward. Therefore, shared legal custody is typically awarded in the absence of issues with one of the parents being unfit or unable to make healthy and reasonable choices for the child.
As divorces are almost always emotionally charged due to the factors that brought on the decision to divorce in the first place, this can be incredibly difficult to normalize for your children, which is why having a neutral party to assist you in seeing the bigger picture can be incredibly helpful.
What if My Child Wants to Live with Me Full Time?
Though courts will take into consideration a child’s preference for which parent they want to live with, they generally aren’t allowed to make this decision until the age of 18. The level of maturity is also reviewed, and if a younger child has a strong preference and an obvious maturity level, their opinions are included as a minor child with a knowledgeable opinion. This age/maturity level can be hard to determine, so it’s typically not given a ton of weight; however, it is factored into the court’s decision.
If Joint Custody is Determined, Do We Both Pay Child Support?
Because child support is generally determined based on the income of the parents, in the cases of both parents sharing custody, there may still be support awarded to one of the parents. If sole custody is awarded, support is likely paid by the parent without custody; however, income again is taken into consideration when calculating what, if any, support is awarded. The courts see child custody and child support as two separate issues, so though they seem to be intertwined, they are kept separate in the eyes of the courts as a general rule, to keep the child’s best interests at the forefront.
How is Visitation/Parenting Time Determined?
Visitation schedules can be incredibly difficult to agree on, at which time you can seek mediation or rely on the courts to determine a schedule. If you are able to come to an agreement and set up a schedule that is best for the child and for both parents’ lives/obligations, it will typically save you time and stress along the way during the divorce proceedings. There are many creative options that families have developed in the past for visitation schedules, one basic example being every other weekend with the non-custodial parent. If it is reasonable and agreed upon by both parents, there isn’t a set guideline on what this looks like, as long as it is proven to be in the best interest of the child. In the event that both parents are able to communicate and agree on visitation, “reasonable visitation” can be used, in which case there isn’t a set schedule and the parents communicate often and determine what works for time with each parent.
How Long Is Custody Typically Enforced?
In general, a custody agreement is enforced until the child reaches the age of 18. Child custody can also be set up until the child turns the age of 21 if the child lives in a parent’s home and is still financially dependent on that parent. In some cases, until the age of 23, if the child is living in that parent’s home, is enrolled in college or other educational programs, and is still dependent on the parent.
It is expected that each case and each family is different and will have different needs. O’Connor Family Law has handled a multitude of these cases in the past, making them a great resource in handling all things related to child custody and how to proceed. Contact them by calling 774-214-2137 to discuss the details specific to your family. We look forward to helping you.