How does a parenting plan work in terms of child custody?

When Massachusetts parents decide to end their marriages they often must make difficult decisions about what to do with their children. Family law courts throughout the state will guide or even dictate to parents, depending upon their situations, the child custody arrangements that they must follow. Child custody plans can result in one parent having sole custody over his children or with the parents sharing custody in joint arrangements.

Since divorce results in a single household becoming two separate locations, parents who live apart can no longer consult each other regarding all matters concerning their kids. From big decisions about schooling to less monumental decisions about bedtimes and nap schedules, parents can find it difficult to get on the same page as their ex-spouses once they no longer live together. A parenting plan can help exes establish common ground regarding decisions relevant to their shared kids.

The Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts have published an informal document regarding how to create an effective parenting plan. The suggestions contained therein guide parents through the developmental stages of their kids’ lives and provide direction toward what types of matters parents should discuss. For example, parents of 6-year-olds to 9-year-olds should find ways to communicate about changes in their kids’ peers, behaviors and extracurricular interests to ensure that they do not miss warning signs of problems afflicting their offspring.

A parenting plan is simply a way for parents to effectively communicate about their children after their marriages have ended. They can be important tools for keeping the peace after acrimonious divorces and can help children adjust to living in split households and as dictated by their child custody determinations. While the information contained in this post should not be read as specific legal advice it may introduce Massachusetts parents to a tool available for addressing post-divorce parenting quarrels.

Can I get sole child custody if my ex is abusive?

Disagreements between married individuals can lead to divorces. In Massachusetts, a couple can seek to end its marriage and in the process may negotiate or have a court settle all matters related to alimony, property, child support and child custody. When it comes to splitting children’s time between the homes of their parents, courts look to serve the best interests of the children subject to their determinations. Serving those best interests can involve taking into account a parent’s history of violence or other detrimental proclivities.

When one parent is unfit to have control of his or her children, courts can award sole custody to the other parent. Sole custody gives the custodial parent full control over the legal decision-making power for the children and permits the children to live exclusively with that parent. A noncustodial parent may have visitation rights awarded by the court, but that visitation can be subject to the limitations of the court and may require supervision for any times the noncustodial parent is with the children.

A parent may be deemed unfit for child custody for a variety of reasons. Prior charges of or convictions for child abuse can prevent a parent from securing custody of his children. Allegations or convictions of domestic violence against another family member can also keep a parent from having custodial time with his kids. Drug addiction and other dangerous lifestyle choices can prevent a parent from having custody rights over his children.

Courts want to preserve parent-child relationships but also must keep children safe. For this reason, some parents are awarded sole custody of their kids when the other parents are unfit to have control over their children. To learn more about child custody matters in Massachusetts or to have a specific custody matter addressed, please consult with a family law attorney.

Parental relocation is a difficult child custody issue

A great job opportunity for a Massachusetts resident can mean that the individual will uproot his family and move everyone to a new community or even to a new state. When a person facing such a situation is married, he and his spouse can decide if the move will serve the family’s best interests. When the person is divorced and has children, his decision to move and to try to take his kids with him is significantly more challenging.

Under Massachusetts law, a divorced parent generally may not take his child out of state without the consent of the other parent. Courts can provide orders for the permissible removal of children from the state by their divorced parents, but at its most superficial level consent of the parents is required for such an action to occur. This rule applies regardless of whether the parents have joint physical custody of the child or whether one parent has sole physical custody and the other has visitation rights.

However, if a parent has no rights to a child then that individual may not be able to stop the relocation of the child and his parent. Parents can lose their rights to their kids, choose to give up their rights, or can fail to acknowledge their children through refusals to complete paternity tests. If parental rights were never established or were abolished after the fact, then that unrecognized parent has no standing to prevent relocation.

Courts look at what child custody arrangements will serve the best interests of the child when they make custody and visitation schedules. Parental relocation throws a big twist into those carefully crafted schedules and parenting plans. For this reason, parents generally may not unilaterally move their kids out of Massachusetts without the consent of the kids’ other parents. Please be aware that this information is general in nature, and a Massachusetts family law attorney can provide advice tailored to a specific situation.

Child custody matters follow rules of jurisdiction

When an American citizen desires to uproot his life in this country and take it to another, he has some legal work to address. Most countries will allow Massachusetts residents and other Americans to visit with passports, but when they intend to move and settle in new locations they usually need more permanent travel documents. A visa can be just the type of document a person needs to start his life abroad.

Just as visas can be granted they can also be taken away. If a person has his visa revoked he may not remain in the foreign country nor may he visit it until the visa issue is resolved. The matter of a visa is currently causing a great deal of consternation for an American actress and her foreign ex-husband as they battle over their two children’s custody.

Kelly Rutherford recently told an American court that she has traveled around 70 times to Monaco to see her two young kids. The children have lived abroad with their father who cannot travel to the United States. His visa was revoked and for that reason he cannot live where Rutherford works and resides. In order to preserve her parenting time, Rutherford has become a frequent traveler to maintain a relationship with her kids.

At present, Rutherford and her ex are trying to determine what court should have jurisdiction over their messy international custody matter. Her ex wants the battle moved to Monaco and alleges that California should not have jurisdiction as Rutherford no longer lives there; Rutherford desires to keep the matter California despite the fact that she retains a residence in New York.

Where a parent lives can impact where a child custody matter may be handled. If the California court finds that Rutherford is no longer a resident of the state then the actress may find herself facing even more travel. At the heart of this matter are two small children who deserve to have their best interests served by whatever court system ends up managing their case.

Source:, “Actress Kelly Rutherford’s Custody Battle Focuses On Court Jurisdiction,” Miriam Hernandez, July 10, 2015

A closer look at sole legal child custody in Massachusetts

According to the General Laws of Massachusetts, a parent who is granted sole legal custody of a child may exercise a great deal of decision-making power regarding that child’s upbringing. Pursuant to Section 31 of Title III on Domestic Relations, a parent with sole legal custody can choose how and where a child is educated, where and with what techniques a child receives medical evaluation and treatment and if or how a child will have any exposure to religious practices or teachings.

These topics encompass some of the biggest considerations that parents must make with regard to raising his or her children. When one parent is removed from having a voice over such matters, he or she can feel isolated and unable to work for the children’s best interests. A parent with sole legal custody can generally initiate his or her preferences for the children’s experiences without bending to the preferences of the other parent.

With regard to education, a parent with sole legal custody can decide the type of institution that the child or children will attend. This decision can directly relate to another one of the categories over which sole legal custodians retain control: the presence or absence of religious teachings in the life of the child. Secular or religious schools may follow different educational foundations and can vary depending upon the institutions.

The religious beliefs of the legal custodian can also factor into how a child receives medical care. While some religious backgrounds do not have policies with regard to certain treatments, others disavow medical intervention in certain situations. Outside of religious implications, a parent with legal authority over a child can unilaterally choose which courses of treatment to utilize when a child is diagnosed with a medical condition.

A parent with sole custody over the legal decision-making of a child’s upbringing holds a great deal of power. In some situations there are good reasons for why courts feel that one parent should hold such rights over the other. However, parents who feel that the legal custody of their children should be shared can seek to split such decision-making power between them. If doing so would serve the best interests of the children, then courts can permit parents to share legal child custody. Divorced parents dealing with issues regarding the custody of their children should understand their options so they can take the appropriate steps to resolve these divorce legal problems.

Massachusetts mother gets child back after state takes custody

The birth of a child can raise many questions for a new mother. Whether she is raising the baby with a partner or on her own, the great responsibility that comes with caring for a new life is one that few women take lightly. Though many worry about whether they are ready for the challenges of parenthood, most are excited about the opportunity to raise their own kids.

A Massachusetts woman was denied that opportunity shortly after she gave birth. Around two years ago, the young woman, who suffers from intellectual disabilities, had a child at a hospital. Upon the child’s birth, the commonwealth’s Department of Children and Families took custody of the girl, claiming that the mother was unable to adequately care for the baby. Since DCF’s interference in this situation, the woman and her family have fought to get the child back.

Just recently the federal government stepped in to help the family. The departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, through a joint investigation, demanded that DCF return the child to her mother. Noting that parents with physical disabilities and limitations are not denied the right to raise their children, the departments found DCF’s actions discriminatory against the mother.

For its part, DCF has claimed that it took action because it believed it was in the best interests of the child to remove her from its mother’s care. However, the investigation also found that while the child was in DCF’s custody, she suffered injuries such as bruises and a black eye. The child will be returned to her mother and her family, and many who advocate for the rights of disabled parents see this as a family law victory for those who experience limitations in their lives. As shown by this unique situation, child custody matters can grow out of many circumstances and can challenge the rights of parents, government agencies and children.

Source:, “Feds order baby returned after DCF takes custody due to mother’s disability,” April 28, 2015

Can Massachusetts grandparents ever get visitation rights?

When parents and their minor children get into arguments, those young people often turn to supportive adults to get through their tough family problems. Often, those supportive adults are the kids’ grandparents. When a family is going through a significant upheaval from divorce, a grandparent can be a stable force in a child’s otherwise uncertain life.

In some cases, grandparents in Massachusetts can get visitation with their grandkids when the parents are going through divorce or other legal separations. Generally, the parents of the children may not be living together at the time the grandparent petitions for visitation; if they are, a grandparent would not be granted visitation rights. A court only permits a grandparent to have visitation with their grandchild if it determines that the visitation would serve the child’s best interests and the family’s structure met the conditions of the Massachusetts General Laws under which grandparent visitation is addressed.

Grandparent visitation will not be authorized in certain situations. If, for example, a child is adopted out of the family, the biological grandparents of the child may not be given visitation rights if the child’s parent has terminated their parental rights. Family law attorneys can provide their clients with specific information about grandparents’ rights and how to approach a petition to seek visitation with their grandchildren.

As with many other issues that arise under matters of child custody and visitation, grandparents’ rights are often only addressed with regard to what serves the best interests of a child. As every family situation is different, readers of this Suffolk County family law blog should not rely on this post as legal advice. Individuals with more questions about this topic may choose to seek counsel to better understand their particular legal needs.

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.

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.

Actor can seek custody and visitation of son

While throughout the nation fathers are securing more rights when it comes to the custody and visitation of their children, there are still some inequities. Accordingly, advocates for fathers have likely paid close attention to the child custody case involving actor Jason Patric.

The issue was admittedly complex. Patric fathered his now 4-year-old son with an ex-girlfriend via artificial insemination. Several years later the couple ended their relationship, which had spanned 10 years and constituted of dating off and on. At that time Patric’s ex prevented the actor from seeing his son. The major issue in this case hinged on whether Patric had parental rights to the child as the sperm donor.

Initially, the court determined that he did not. That decision was reversed this past spring however by an appellate court which ruled for the actor and earlier this month Patric was declared legalfather to his son. This declaration means that Patric can now pursue custody and visitation of the young boy.

Though this case played out in another state, it is likely that factors similar to those in the state of Massachusetts will be taken into consideration in the course of establishing custody and visitation of the child. Residents of Massachusetts may work together to create a parenting plan that works for both parents. When, however, that is not possible, parents can expect that the court will make a decision with the best interest of the child in mind.

In either situation having a lawyer on your side who understand the ins and outs of child custody and visitation matters is a good idea.

Source: People, “Jason Patric Declared Legal Parent of His Son: Report,” Michele Corriston, Nov. 3, 2014

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