Child Custody Lawyers Somerville MA
Children & Custody
Child custody cases are the most challenging and difficult cases for clients. Parents in these cases don’t get a long and frequently have the “whatever it takes” attitude when it comes to their children. Every child custody case is unique, which is why it is important to have a trusted team of child custody lawyers that will protect your rights and your relationship with your children. In Massachusetts, like all states, the courts make child custody determinations based on the best interest of the child. A child’s best interests vary greatly depending on the needs of the child and the parents. Our methods, negotiation strategies, and solutions are constantly evolving with new technology and changing needs.
Understanding Child Custody
Parents who live separate and apart must have an understanding and agreement for both legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make the important choices such as religion, education, and medical treatment. Physical custody refers to whom the child is actually with. Per the United States Constitution, parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit, which is why there is a presumption of shared legal custody unless one parent is shown to be unfit. Sole custody is rare and refers to one parent having all legal and physical rights. The courts will order a shared custody arrangement except in extraordinary circumstances where a judge finds that shared custody is not in the best interest of the children.
Co-parenting is inherently difficult, but we can help you find tools to communicate and work with the other parent, even in the most contentious situations. There are different sets of challenges at each stage of a child’s life that need to be considered from breastfeeding and nap schedules, to teens with their own schedules of sports and extracurricular activities, to young adults still dependent on their parents. We have seen every type of situation and found solutions that are beneficial to the schildren while being realistic for parents’ schedules and budgets. If necessary we can explore using a parent coordinator or applications such as Our Family Wizard. Our goal is to settle your case with a comprehensive parenting agreement to reserve your time and resources for your family instead of legal matters.
Occasionally, there are situations where joint custody or co-parenting is not appropriate, such as a when there is a parent who is abusive, incarcerated, or for some reason unfit to parent. We are cognizant of the delicate balance between the children’s interest of having two parents involved in their life and the children’s safety. In sole custody situations, there are different goals, based on the client’s and children’s needs, which are handled with on a case-by-case basis. We consider and negotiate all possibilities including, but not limited to, supervised visits, therapy and counseling options, and communication methods.
Depending on the age of the child, and particular situation, we might advise or request for an ARC (attorneys representing children) attorney to represent the child or a guardian ad litem. An ARC attorney is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the child’s voice and wishes to the court. The child is able to communicate with the attorney with the same independence and confidentiality that a parent has with his or her attorney. This can be helpful for children in their teenage years that are old enough to voice their opinions and concerns, but are still children nonetheless. The child’s voice is considered by the courts, but is not necessarily decisive. Parents still have the ability to settle the case without the approval of the ARC attorney.
Guardian at litems (GAL) are different from ARC attorneys because they conduct an investigation and file a report with the court giving recommendations based on their findings. The GAL is an independent third party who is responsible for representing what is in the child’s best interest. A GAL will conduct their investigation through interviewing the children, parents, and other involved adults (teachers, coaches, doctors, therapists, etc.), and reviewing educational, medical, and legal records.
Relocation or Removal
A parent may not remove a child, who is a resident of Massachusetts, to reside in another state without the permission of the other parent. If a parent refuses to give permission for the children to move out of state, the moving parent may petition the court for permission. The parent who is moving will have the burden to prove that it is in the children’s best interests to move with him or her. It is of particular importance to hire an attorney in these situations as there is a limited period of time to contest a removal and winning a removal case requires extensive knowledge about custody laws and the evidence needed to prove each case.
The court will order a set amount of child support to be paid weekly to the primary custodial parent in accordance with a formula, known as the child support guide lines, that accounts for the income of each parent, insurance costs for the children, childcare costs, ages of the children, and time spent with each parent. The Massachusetts child support laws changed in September 2017. The courts noticed parents were entering into parenting schedule agreements based around child support payments instead of the best interests of the children. Our child custody lawyers are well versed in the factors judges consider when deviating from the child support guidelines and will fight for a fair order.
To discuss your particular case and get information regarding what you can expect, call us for a free no-obligation consultation.