Child Custody Lawyers in Melrose Assisting ParentsWithLegal Aspects of Custody and Visitation
Our children are one of the greatest assets in our lives. We look forward to each day we are able to spend with our children as we watch them learn and grow. However, situations often occur in our lives that cause us to be separated from our children, such as divorce or separation.
One of the most challenging ordeals that we may ever have to face is going through legal proceedings in order to determine who will have child custody and how visitation will be arranged. The lawyers of the Martino Law Group, LLC understand how emotionally draining and frightening this process can be for all parties who may be involved. We are committed to achieving an outcome that is favorable to you and in the child’s best interests.
What Different Types of Child Custody are Available in Massachusetts?
Under Massachusetts law, there are two defined categories of child custody: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody basically refers to a parent’s authority to participate in any major decisions that pertain to their healthcare, emotional development, education, and moral and religious development.
Physical custody refers to the time in which a child resides with or is under the care and supervision of a parent.
The court has the discretion to award sole or joint physical custody and legal custody or even a combination of both if they deem it to be in the child’s best interests. Massachusetts courts refer to joint custody as shared custody.
Joint legal custody is defined as both parents being mutually responsible for and taking part in decisions that have to do with matters that pertain to medical care, educational needs, and moral development.
Frequently, even when parents share legal custody, one parent will still remain the primary custodial parent. If for some reason, the court awards one parent physical custody, the judge will create a visitation schedule to ensure that the other parent can continue to have a quality relationship with the child(ren).
What is Meant by “Best Interests of the Child” in Custody Proceedings?
When the issue of child custody comes before a judge in Massachusetts, there is what is known as a “best interests of the child” standard that they must consider before making a decision. This standard of law requires judges to determine custody based on the individual needs of the children. In Massachusetts, neither parent begins with a greater right to custody than the other.
One of the main factors used in making custody determinations has to do with the judge taking into account any adverse effects a child may have suffered from past or present living conditions. These can include effects on a child’s physical, mental, and emotional health or moral development.
In addition, the judge is allowed the discretion to also consider the following:
- A parent’s ability to provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and any other need the child may have.
- Whether the parents have a history of child neglect or domestic violence.
- Both parents’ physical and mental health, as well as their moral fitness.
- The relationship each parent has with the child.
- Each parent’s willingness to cultivate a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.
- The child’s school, community, and home record
- Any other factor that the judge may deem to be relevant to the custody case.
Is it Possible to Modify or Change a Custody Order in Massachusetts if Circumstances Change?
As time passes and individual circumstances change, there may come a time when one or both parents become dissatisfied with a custody order. If this occurs, they have the option to seek to modify or change the original order. If both parents are in agreement, then they can jointly petition the court. If they are not in agreement, then they will have to appear before a family court judge in a contested proceeding.
A modification to a child custody order in Massachusetts can only be granted if two specific conditions are met:
- There is a “material and substantial change in the circumstances of the parties.”
- Modification is necessary as it is “in the best interests of the children.”
The possibilities of a “material and substantial change” may be largely dependent on the individual facts that surround each case. Nevertheless, some examples include the following:
- One parent repeatedly interferes with the custodial rights of the other parent.
- A parent moves out of state, which makes joint custody impossible.
- A parent is unable to provide a home environment that is safe for the child.
- A parent is unable to properly care for the needs of the child due to alcohol or drug addiction.
- The custody arrangements or visitation rights that are put in place unreasonably interfere with the child’s ability to obtain an education or to participate in extracurricular activities.
When Should I Hire a Child Custody Lawyer?
There are several valid reasons why you should hire a child custody lawyer, even if you have a previous custody arrangement in place. The attorneys of the Martino Group firmly believe that a child’s health and welfare should always be a top priority.
You need to hire a child custody lawyer if any of the following apply to your situation:
The other parent is abusive: If you feel that your children are in danger, then you need to call law enforcement and consider filing a restraining order against your ex. Next, speak with an attorney who can assist you with gathering evidence to prove that you are an unfit parent.
The other parent will not allow you to see the child: If the other parent is prone to canceling visitation at the last minute or is attempting to limit the contact you have, then it is time to speak with a family law attorney.
The attorneys with the Martino Law Group, LLC understand what an overwhelming and frightening time this is for you. Contact us by calling (781) 531-8673 and scheduling a free consultation with one of our highly qualified child custody lawyers, who can explain your rights and legal options.