The role of mediation in a collaborative divorce

In music, an artistic collaboration may bring together artists of different styles, genres or even generations. In literature, a collaborative work may put on display the writing talents of authors across different literary realms. Collaboration, therefore, has to do with bringing together elements that may not be completely alike or in synch.

Similarly, Massachusetts residents can now seek to end their marriages in a collaborative way. It can make sense for the right couple: when a couple decides that it is time to separate it is highly likely that the partners to the failing relationship are starting to experience differences between them. In a collaborative divorce, those differences are acknowledged and solutions to conflict are actively sought out.

The collaborative approach to ending a marriage is not for everyone. Generally, couples who have few disputes do better in the process than couples who battle over every small decision that must be made. In essence, a collaborative divorce allows otherwise agreeable partners to work through the ends of their marriages without the court’s interference.

From time to time, however, a collaborative divorce hits a point of contention through which it simply cannot proceed. Rather than going to court to settle the dispute, the divorcing parties and their legal representatives can utilize the services of a mediator. Previous posts on this blog have discussed the role of mediation in divorce; though a mediator does not advocate for one party or resolution, he or she can talk parties through their options for finding peace on a point of contention.

Collaborative law extends to the family law world through collaborative divorce. The process allows couples to talk through issues and find harmony to their conflicts outside of a courtroom. While accord is generally found in a collaborative divorce, couples can settle their differences in the process through the utilization of mediation.

What are the definitions of legal and physical custody?

When a couple with children decides to divorce, decisions will have to be made regarding the custody of their child. Yet did you know there is a difference between legal custody and physical custody?

Per Massachusetts law, legal custody can be either sole or shared. In a sole legal custody situation, just one parent retains the ability to make key life decisions on behalf of the child. This includes decisions regarding medical care, education and religion. In addition, they are responsible for the child’s moral and emotional development. If parents share legal custody, they are both responsible for these decisions and both must be involved in making them.

Physical custody, however, is different than legal custody. Like legal custody it can be either sole or shared. However, physical custody refers to where the child lives and which parent is responsible for supervising the child. In sole physical custody situations, the child lives and is supervised by just one parent and the other parent receives reasonable visitation rights, unless doing so would not serve the child’s best interests. Shared physical custody means that the child resides and is supervised by one parent some of the time and the other parent the rest of the time, allowing the child to have continuous and frequent periods of time with each parent.

Understanding the various types of custody is important when parents divorce. When the court makes child custody decisions, each parent has equal rights, except in the case of misconduct. In the end, the welfare and happiness of the child will be the basis of any custody order. This includes determining how the child’s living conditions, both before and after the divorce, will affect the child’s health — mentally, emotionally, physically and morally. Parents with further questions about child custody should research their legal options, to ensure they can reach a fair custody agreement.

Massachusetts child support guidelines can be overwritten

During their divorce, the parents of a Massachusetts child may decide to settle child support matters related to that young person’s care. Courts generally look to the Commonwealth’s child support guidelines and base their determinations on the factors included therein. However, in some cases, Massachusetts courts can go against the child support guidelines and make their own independent child support determinations, when those determinations serve the children’s best interests.

Under the general laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there is a rebuttable presumption that, when applied correctly, the child support guidelines provide the right amount of support for a child. A parent may overcome this rebuttable presumption. Nonetheless, by showing that the support established by the guidelines is either too high or too low for the needs of the child. In those cases, a court must provide several pieces of information to make its own support decision.

First, the court must provide the amount of support that the guidelines would give to the child in question. Second, the court would have to assert that the guidelines are insufficient to address the circumstances of the particular case. Third, the court would have to offer the case-specific information that would justify overriding the guidelines’ determinations. Fourth, the court would have to show that going against the guidelines served the best interests of the child subject to the support determination.

If a court can establish these four factors, it can make its own support decision about how much financial support a child should receive. The child support guidelines are not always accommodating to the financial needs of every child or the many special circumstances that can arise when parents split while raising a child. Individuals who would like to learn more about child support and the Massachusetts support guidelines can work with family law attorneys who practice in their communities.

We bring care and zeal to child custody matters

No matter how much money or how many possessions a Suffolk County couple has, that couple’s greatest assets are its children. Whether those children are infants or teenagers, divorce and separation can be challenging for young people of all ages. Choosing the right legal representation to manage your child custody and visitation needs can be critical to protecting the emotions and best interests of your children.

The Walters Law Offices offer child custody and visitation representation to clients with varying needs and interests. While some divorcing couples are able, and prefer, to handle decisions about their kids outside of the courtroom, others elect to address such matters before a Massachusetts family court. Our firm can work with you to find the most effective way to approach your divorce-related custody determinations.

Although every child custody matter is different and poses its own unique personal and legal considerations, individuals who are confused about child custody laws in Massachusetts can benefit from working with skilled attorneys who practice in the field of family law. With you, our firm will seek out answers to your queries, whether your questions concern the differences between legal or physical custody, whether you can change your custody order, or any of the many other issues that may arise when children are affected by divorce.

Individuals who require legal assistance with child custody matters deserve competent, compassionate and zealous representation. The best interests of a child can be greatly affected by custody decisions, so having an appropriate attorney can be critical. To learn more about how the Walters Law Firm can help you through your own family law matter, please visit the firm’s website on child custody.

Halle Berry’s child support and custody dispute gets specific

How an individual chooses to convey their personal appearance can say a lot about how they want to be viewed by others. People throughout Massachusetts select different styles for their hair, clothing and other visual features in order to best convey the images they want to express. Children often have definite ideas about how they want to look, though often, their desires are tempered by what their parents will allow.

A famous actress and her former partner have recently gotten into a messy dispute over what each can and cannot do to their daughter’s appearance. Halle Berry and her former partner, Gabriel Aubry, recently had representatives in court determining whether Aubry could have their 6-year-old daughter’s hair chemically straightened and lightened. Although a judge determined that neither Berry nor Aubry can change the girl’s hair, the issue does raise interesting questions about what parents may and may not do without the other’s consent.

Berry pays Aubry child support in order to care for their daughter when the child is in Aubry’s custody. According to this judge’s ruling, however, it seems that Aubry does not have full leeway regarding how he can use that money for the child’s care. Some decisions about raising a child must be made collectively between the child’s parents.

While in many cases parents must come together to make important decisions about topics such as a child’s schooling, medical care and religion, this case demonstrates that courts can require parents to work together on matters of apparently less significance. The form of custody that a parent exercises over a child, as well as whether they pay any child support for that child’s care, can factor into how collaborative parents have to be about child-focused decisions. Individuals who have questions about child support or decision-making regarding their kids can work with family law attorneys to address their specific legal needs.

Source:┬áNew Pittsburgh Courier, “Judge Orders Halle Berry’s Ex To Stop Straightening, Lightening Daughter’s Hair,” Ruth Manuel-Logan, Nov. 28, 2014

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