At Sweeney and Associates, our family law practitioners handle matters involving child custody, parenting time, and child support issues. Our attorneys find that for parties who never wed or have already been divorced, custody and child support issues continue to be an issue.
Get started on your case today. Schedule your free consult with a Quincy child custody lawyer at Sweeney & Associates, LLC.
Changing Custody Agreements
To change a custody agreement, the moving party must show a substantial change in circumstances. Essentially this means a party cannot seek to change custody just because they want to, or it would be more convenient. There has to be a legitimate reason for the court to change the current agreement.
It is also important to keep this in mind – the standard the court uses is in the best interest of the child. Courts do not grant custody or parenting time based on what is best and easiest for the parents, but rather they look at what is in the best interests of the child involved.
There are two types of custody in Massachusetts known as legal custody and physical custody:
- Legal custody gives the parent the right to make significant life decisions, including religious upbringing, medical treatment, and education.
- Physical custody determines with whom the child will live.
If the parents cannot agree, then the court will decide for them after hearing both sides. In only rare circumstances will a parent lose legal custody. A parent can lose legal custody when there has been sexual abuse or severe physical abuse of the child.
Physical custody tends to be the issue parents fight over the most. Both parents love their child, and while they want what is best, they often cannot agree on what that is for the child. Courts can award joint physical custody where the child spends equal amounts of time at each parent’s home, such as Monday morning to Thursday morning at one home and Thursday morning to Monday morning at the other parent’s home.
The court will only award joint physical custody in cases where the parents agree to it and can effectively communicate with each other. If the parents cannot get along, the court will determine which parent will have sole physical custody, meaning where the child’s primary residence will be and which parent will have parenting time (formerly known as visitation).
What Happens if the Parents Never Married?
Suppose you have never been to court before, and therefore there is no court order determining who has custody. In that case, Massachusetts law states that if the parents are married, they share joint legal and physical custody. If the parents were never married, the mother has sole legal and physical custody even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate. A father will only have custodial rights in Massachusetts if he files the appropriate paperwork in court and the court enters an order granting him custody rights.
In the case of a same-sex relationship where the parties were never married, only the biological mother will have sole legal and physical custody of the child until there is a court order stating otherwise.
If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will decide the custody issue based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider a variety of factors, including:
- The primary caretaker of the child
- Where the child resided over the past six months
- Substance abuse issues
- Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse directed at the child
- Relationship between parent and child
- Child’s overall well-being, including physical, mental, and emotional health
- Parents ability to communicate and/or if either parent attempts to alienate the child from the other parent
Free Case Evaluation
Sweeney & Associates, LLC is proud to offer prospective clients a complimentary
initial case evaluation. We understand that every case is unique and will take this
time to get to know the details of your situation and begin discussing your legal
options for achieving the best possible outcome. As we understand that the reputation
of you and your family is at stake, this consultation is completely confidential.
Motion for Temporary Orders
In other cases, we can file a Motion for Temporary Orders. This type of motion is often filed with a Complaint for Divorce or by a parent who was not married to the child’s mother to establish an initial custody agreement. A Motion for Temporary Orders can be filed for a hundred different reasons and include when one parent is seeking to vacation with the child out of state, seeking to change the child’s primary residence for purposes of education, wants the child to participate in an extracurricular activity that the other parents does not, or wants the child to participate in certain religious services.
If the court has already entered a custody agreement, a parent can file a Complaint about Modification if the agreement is not working out. The parent will have to show a substantial change in circumstances to change the custody agreement. A significant change in circumstances could be that one parent has a substance abuse problem, has a new job, and is never home to care for the child, or has met someone new and wants to move out of state with them.
There is a metaphor sometimes used in family services at the courthouse that helps parents understand the importance of co-parenting. It is as follows: raising a child is like running a business. If the two business partners, or parents in the case of a child, cannot communicate and get along with each other, the business will go bankrupt. The same thing happens to the child if all they see is hostility and negativity between their parents. That is why we advocate for resolutions that address the issue but do not drive a further wedge between the parents.
Our goal at Sweeney & Associates, LLC is to resolve your custody issues in a manner that allows you to co-parent your children successfully. While that is not always possible because of the parent's actions, we do our best to handle your case in conducive to your goal. We recognize that you will still have to communicate with your child's other parent when the court case is over. Sometimes that communication is limited to text message or email communication, but communication is always necessary when co-parenting a child.
Emergency Motions in Massachusetts
Our clients have required our assistance to file an Emergency Motion with the court in many cases, stopping visitations immediately until a hearing can be held with both parties. These cases arise unexpectedly due to unforeseen circumstances, and clients often find themselves navigating a foreign world.
At Sweeney & Associates, LLC, we can guide our clients through the process and ensure that any necessary steps to be heard before a judge on an emergency basis are taken. It is essential to be prepared BEFORE you file and ensure that all of the evidence is presented to the court to achieve the best possible outcome. Our experienced trial attorneys are well-versed in presenting evidence to the court when the safety of your children may be at stake.
Contact an Experienced Quincy Family Law Attorney
Please schedule an initial consultation so you can learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve your goals. You may call our firm at (617) 300-0212 or you may contact our family law office online.
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