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All states, including Massachusetts, use a “best
interest of the child” standard in disputed custody cases.
Child Custody can be physical or legal. The parties can agree. If not the court will enter orders based on the best interests of the children.
The court will consider the following factors:
- age of the childern
- current parental caregiver situation ( what happens now)
- each parents' willingness/co-operation to support the
other parents' relationship with the children.
- Kids' relationship with parent before the divorce
- Continuity/Least disruptive
- Behavior of the parents.
In certain situations where the parents cannot agree on
custody arrangements the court with appoint a Guardian ad Litem
, usually at the expense of the parents, to provide information
in a written report to the court which can include:
- meeting with parents children, teachers, and friends
- psychological testing
- home visits
Any final decision is with the court.
Physical Custody establishes where a child will live during particular time frames.
Legal Custody establishes which parent (or both) has decision making authority for the minor children on such things as schools, doctors, non-elective surgery, and religion.
Your Conduct With Your Children
The behavior of parents before and after divorce has a
great influence on the emotional adjustment of their
children. The following guidelines may be helpful:
Put your children's welfare first. Never use your
children as a weapon against your spouse.
Be sure your children have ample time with the other
parent. They need it.
Visitation should usually not take place in the
Don't introduce your children to your new romantic
interest until the children have adjusted to your separation
and your new relationship is stable.
Don't bring your children to court or to your lawyer's
Keep to the schedule. Give the other parent and the
children as much notice as you can when you will not be able
to keep to the schedule. Be considerate.
Be flexible. You may both need to adjust the schedule
from time to time.
Giving of yourself is more important than giving
material things. Feverish rounds of holiday type activities
during every visitation period or lavish gifts may be viewed
as a crude effort to purchase affection, and is not good for
Do not use your children as spies to report to you about
the other parent.
Do not use the children as couriers to deliver messages,
money or information.
Try to agree on decisions about the children, especially
matters of discipline, so that one parent is not undermining
the other parent's efforts.
Avoid arguments or confrontations while dropping off or
picking up the children and at other times when your
children are present.
Don't listen in on your children's phone calls with the
Maintain your composure. Try to keep a sense of humor.
Remember that your children's behavior is affected by your
attitude and conduct.
Assure your children they are not to blame for the
breakup, and are not being rejected or abandoned by either
Don't criticize the other parent in front of your
children. Your children need to respect both parents.
Do not let guilt you may feel about the marriage
breakdown interfere with discipline of your children.
Parents must be ready to say "No" when necessary.
You are only human. You cannot be a perfect parent. When
you make a mistake, acknowledge it and try to do better next
Summary of State Law