Physical vs. legal child custody in Massachusetts
Whether parents have been married or not, perhaps the most difficult cases are those where parents cannot agree to the post-separation and post-divorce custody and parenting times for their minor children. Separated parents must either agree or seek court intervention to determine which should have legal custody and how the parents should share time with the children.
Legal custody determines which parent or parents will have the authority to make important decisions for the child, including decisions relating to where the child resides, and decisions about the child’s health care, education, and religious upbringing.
Physical custody refers to how the child will share time between the parents.
How Is Child Custody Decided in Massachusetts Courts?
Probate and Family Court judges have broad discretion to fashion physical custody and parenting time orders on a case-by-case basis. Generally, the single biggest consideration in making orders relative to parenting time is the roles each parent played in the child’s life prior to their separation. The parent who was the child’s primary caregiver prior to the legal action is generally favored by the judge once the case commences; however, it is not unusual for judges to modify the parenting schedule in response to events in the parties’ and/or children’s lives.
Will You Need a Guardian ad Litem?
When parents cannot agree on how to resolve custody and parenting time, a court may order a Guardian ad Litem to investigate and make recommendations about what custody or parenting time plan might be in the child’s best interest. A GAL may be appointed when there are allegations of misconduct against one or both parents. During the course of a GAL investigation, the GAL will interview and receive information from a number of personal and professional collaterals, including teachers, doctors, daycare providers, social workers, and family members, who might have important information about the children and the parenting concerns. The GAL then is responsible to draft a report explaining all of the information that was received, and, if the court has requested recommendations, will include recommendations.
The cost of the GAL’s work is typically shared between the parties but may also be assigned to one or the other party initially with an order for the cost-sharing to be reapportioned at a later date.
If You’re Facing Divorce in Massachusetts, Contact Nasios & Associates, LLC
At Nasios & Associates, LLC, we help clients in Southeastern Massachusetts resolve family law issues related to divorce, child support, child custody, grandparent visitation, child abuse, harassment, restraining orders, guardianship, visitation, and more.
We serve Plymouth County and beyond to help them resolve all their family law disputes. We understand that divorce is a stressful and often complicated process. Our family law attorney is here to give you the support you need while ensuring you get a fair outcome. For help with all your Massachusetts divorce-related matters, book an appointment at Nasios & Associates, LLC today.