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Child Custody FAQs

Do you have custody Questions?

We have compiled a list of questions we hear regularly from our clients regarding child custody and have provided the answers below.

An in-depth discussion and analysis you’re your situation is needed.   If your goal is sole legal custody, we would need to get a full understanding of the reasons behind your request.  Legal custody has to do with decision making authority concerning the child and is more often than not shared by both parents.  The court is moving away from terms such as “child custody” and more toward terms such as “parenting plan” or “parenting time arrangement.”  You should know exactly what you want your parenting plan to look like, and how to describe it, so your attorney is able to advocate for you effectively.

If the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan that works for their schedules and is in the best interest of the child, you must look to the court to decide your future.  Because the parties will ultimately forfeit any control in the outcome, it is best if both parents can come to an agreement regarding custody and parenting time. If you cannot, you need an experienced attorney who is not afraid of the courtroom to represent your interests and the interests of your child.

No, the children not summonsed to court to testify against his or her parents in Massachusetts. However, the court may order a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate your case and make recommendations to the court concerning the custody arrangement for your child.   This is done during the litigation process and the GAL may request to speak to your child as part of that investigation. The court may also appoint an ARC attorney to speak with your child and report the court the child’s position on any variety of issues. 

There is no magic age for a child to be able to decide this issue in Massachusetts. Courts may consider a child’s custodial preference when the child is mature enough to have a well-formed opinion, but there is no certain age when judges are required to consider a child’s preference. Courts will more strongly consider the opinion of older children, while a younger child’s opinion about a custody arrangement will be given less weight. The court will only accept and adopt the child’s opinion, in its entirety, when the child turns 18 and is legally emancipated. 

Your lawyer can petition the court for what’s called an “enforcement,” which compels the co-parent to live up to those obligations or face severe consequences.

If the custodial parent wants to relocate to another area or state with the child, they cannot do so without getting approval from the other parent, or approval from the court.  Even if the custodial parent wishes to remain in Massachusetts, they may have to seek permission from the court if it is in a distant part of the state. In order to relocate without the noncustodial parent’s consent, a complaint for modification seeking removal must be filed, and the noncustodial parent must be given the opportunity to object.

Before the issue of child custody can be brought before the court by unmarried people, paternity must be established.  This is done either by the father signing an acknowledgement of paternity or through DNA testing. If the mother will not cooperate with either of those options, the father must bring a complaint to establish paternity and request that mother be ordered to cooperate in taking a DNA test.  Once paternity is established, the court will determine the custody and visitation schedule if the parties cannot agree between themselves.  

A child custody arrangement can be changed when there has been a material change in circumstances. The parent who is seeking the modification must show the court that the modification would be in the child’s best interests.

Legal representation is always a wise investment in such important family matters.  What may start out asa pretty simple case, often becomes increasingly complicated as you go along, and you may do more harm than you realize going it alone.  Entering a courtroom full of strangers with experienced counsel gives you an advantage because your lawyer knows the setting, rules, procedures and other attorneys.

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