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Taking A Whole Child And Whole Family Approach To Child Custody

There are two types of custody, physical and legal. The home of the parent who has “physical custody” of the children is where the children primarily live. “Legal custody” confers a right to make important decisions about the raising of the children, such as educational, medical or religious choices.

Uncontested Custody

Even if you and your soon to be ex-spouse agree as to the child custody arrangement and even if you anticipate cooperation regarding custody, there will remain many issues to decide and negotiate with your former partner. Questions such as:

  • Can a schedule be arranged that will be convenient to all parties?

  • How will special events and circumstances be handled?

  • How will the parties communicate to assure the well-being of the children?

Regardless of which parent is awarded primary physical custody or whether the parents have agreed to share physical custody, a well-drafted parenting plan can ensure that as parents you both will continue to fulfill essential roles in your children’s lives. In most uncontested custodial agreements, parents share “legal custody” and together they make their children’s major life decisions. For more information on the possibilities, call or email for a consult with me, attorney Annette Baker.

Contested Custody

In cases where a relationship becomes unhealthy for you or your children it may be necessary to retain an attorney to serve as an aggressive advocate. High-conflict custody cases often involve allegations of alcohol or drug abuse, family violence or other circumstances indicating that the best interests of the children require limited or supervised visitation, intensive family support or counseling services, or other extraordinary needs.

Keen Insight Into Visitation Issues

An attorney can help work through and resolve the following common issues concerning visitation whether a parent is involved in divorce or paternity proceeding, modifying or seeking enforcement of an existing visitation order or seeking compliance with an existing order.

  • Visitation arrangements for noncustodial parents on active military duty

  • Custody or visitation issues concerning children with special needs

  • Stepparent adoption

Massachusetts Child Support In Divorce And Paternity Cases

Child support ends upon the emancipation of a child, which in Massachusetts may occur as late as age 23. Most other child support issues are resolved by the application of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, which determine a weekly child support under a formula established under the state child support guidelines.

The amount of support is calculated on 5 main issues:

  1. Both incomes

  2. Which parent pays for medical insurance for the children

  3. The number of children

  4. Whether the parent who pays support has any previous child support obligations

  5. The cost of child care

In many cases, however, it will be advisable to argue for an upward or downward variance based on such factors as short-term involuntary unemployment, underemployment, a child’s special needs, substantial unearned assets available for the support of the children, or disputes as to the actual income of a self-employed noncustodial parent. Bear in mind that the court has the authority to set aside the guidelines, but as your attorney I must have clear and convincing evidence of valid reasons, in order to do so.

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply in cases involving paternity determinations or other disputes between unmarried parents just as much as they do in divorce cases.

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