Child Custody Lawyers in Westborough Making a Difference for Clients
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 several 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 Westborough offices today at 774-214-2137 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 inboth 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.
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 About Mediation?
Mediation is also a useful tool used by many to navigate through their divorce. It is the process in which you and the other parent meet with a neutral third party to discuss details and come to an agreement regarding custody issues as well as other topics of divorce. This option is appealing to many parents, as their child’s specific or private info isn’t laid out publicly in court in this case, and is kept in the private setting where the mediation sessions take place. Parents can utilize a trained, neutral third party to help them to negotiate what is best for the child/children and, in some cases, save time and money and avoid court. In the case where a final agreement isn’t met through mediation, it can still be an incredibly helpful process in preparing for court by helping each of the parents to get a clearly defined vision of each other’s wishes, learn of scenarios or strategies that worked for other families in similar situations, and lean on a professional to help them to communicate better through the process in general. O’Connor Family Law also offers mediation services and has helped many families in unique situations utilize mediation to help them agree on child custody and other matters.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
Having an experienced attorney to work with you through this process can be incredibly beneficial. Custody is both one of the most discussed and also most complex issues when filing for divorce, and relying on a team of trusted and experienced professionals can remove some of the stress of this process and make sure that you are getting your questions answered and concerns addressed every step of the way. O’Connor Family Law has handled a multitude of these cases in the past; contact us by calling 774-214-2137 to discuss the details specific to your case.