There are two types of custody arrangements in Massachusetts: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines who makes the major medical, religious and educational decisions for the child. We try to encourage couples to be in control of making decisions for their children rather than leaving the decisions up to a judge.
Physical custody determines where the child will primarily live. There is a whole host of different custody and parenting arrangements that a couple can enter into, especially if the goal is to co-parent. A sole physical custody arrangement exists when the child lives with one parent primarily and the other parent has parenting time. Our firm never uses the word visitation. A lot of clients are offended by that term. We feel that when you are spending time with your children you are parenting them, not visiting them.
A joint custody arrangement exists when the children live with each parent about 50% of the time. Clients will develop a comprehensive parenting schedule to ensure that it happens. There is something called a split physical custody arrangement, whereby one child lives with one parent and the other child lives with the other parent. Another custody arrangement that is becoming increasingly popular is called bird nesting. Bird nesting is similar to shared physical custody, but the focus is that the children don’t leave the marital residence and the parents share time in the marital residence. So, the parents are the ones who go back and forth with their schedules as opposed to the children doing so.
At What Age (If Any) Does The Child Have A Say In Who They Are Going To Live With?
A child is considered a minor up until the age of 18, and never gets to make the decision of who to live with. Generally, it is the parents who make that decision. However, in a contested case with two separate attorneys, a judge will often appoint a third party called a guardian at litem. A guardian ad litem is usually a therapist or an attorney who will interview the children and make a recommendation about what is in the children’s best interest.
Does a five-year old child really know what is in his or her best interest? No, so it is always an adult who makes the ultimate decision. The judge will give the child’s voice weight only in a contested situation when a guardian ad litem is involved.
Is It Difficult To Resolve Custody Issues During The Process Of Mediation?
It can be difficult to resolve custody issues during the process of mediation. The two main issues in a divorce have to do with money and custody of the children. Our firm ensures that both parents’ voices are heard. We consider past events, their goals for the future, how easily each parent communicates with the other and how likely it is that the couple could successfully co-parent. Divorce will have an impact on children no matter what, but it doesn’t have to be a devastating impact if the parents are empowered to create a family structure that allows the children access to both parents. We pride ourselves on helping our clients co-parent successfully. We help them to cope, communicate and navigate conflict both during and after a divorce.
For more information on Types Of Custody Arrangements, a strategy session is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (508) 466-4679today.