What is custody?
There are two types of custody in Massachusetts cases: physical custody and legal custody.
- Physical custody is where the child spends his or her time. In most cases there is a parenting schedule that determines when a child spends time with each parent.
- Legal custody is decision-making regarding a child’s health, education, and welfare. These decisions can include medical decisions, school decisions, religious upbringing, and a variety of other day-to-day issues.
Who can file for custody in Massachusetts?
In most situations, a parent can file a case for custody regarding a child that has resided in Massachusetts for at least six months. There are a variety of other factors, some of which allow a Massachusetts filing before the six-month period.
My spouse/girlfriend/ex-spouse won’t let me see my child, what should I do?
When a parent is withholding visitation of a child from the other parent, an immediate filing of a Complaint and Motion for Temporary Visitation is frequently necessary. In the majority of situations, judges feel that it is important for a child to have a relationship with both parents.
My spouse/boyfriend/ex-spouse won’t pay child support, can I withhold visitation?
No. The two issues are unrelated. However, an immediate filing of a Complaint and Motion for Temporary Support is frequently necessary. In nearly all situations, both parents should be financially supporting a child.
How is child support calculated?
Child support is calculated based on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. You can try it yourself here (insert link). If the child support you are paying or receiving does not match the guidelines, a Complaint for Modification is often necessary.
My spouse/boyfriend/ex-spouse has been ordered to pay child support but won’t, what should I do?
A Complaint for Contempt is a valuable tool to get a parent to comply with a prior order. In many situations, the court will order that the child support be immediately be brought current, and that you be reimbursed for any attorney’s fees you incurred to get the support.
I want sole legal custody of my child, what should I do?
Most judges are reluctant to order sole legal custody of a child. Generally speaking, both parents can and should be involved with decisions regarding the child. If you don’t believe that your child’s other parent is capable of making these decisions, it’s important to talk to an attorney about the proper strategy.
Can we share physical custody of our child?
Absolutely. Many parents are able to share physical custody and have the child split his/her week equally or nearly equally. Parents thinking about sharing custody need to consider all logistical factors — like sharing of driving, who will stay home if the child is sick or has a school day, etc.
Can I have sole physical custody of my child?
Frequently, a parenting schedule is arranged where one parent spends more time with the child than the other parent. A parent who has the child more than one-half of the child’s time is said to be the primary physical custodian of the child. This does not mean that the other parent does not have a meaningful relationship with the child. It simply means that the child spends more time with one parent than the other. Determining the child’s schedule with each parent is often one of the most highly contested issues in a case.
What happens when there has been a major change in our lives since the last court order?
All issues regarding children are subject to review by the court upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. When such a change occurs, a Complaint for Modification is frequently the right course of action (see the next page).
Do I have to have an attorney in my custody case?
Absolutely not. Many people go through a variety of custody cases without the advice of an attorney. However, keep in mind that the outcome of the case will have a huge impact on your relationship with your child. An order on custody will impact the amount of time each parent spends with the child and how much influence each parent will have in the decision-making regarding the child.
What if I can’t afford the several-thousand-dollar retainer many attorneys ask for?
That’s where I can help. I offer a wide range of advice and representation on custody cases. These can include helping by just reviewing some paperwork, advising on your rights before a mediation, or providing a “second opinion” before a major decision needs to be made. If you feel uncomfortable going to court, I can represent you for a single hearing. I offer these services on an affordable, flat-fee basis.
Many clients prefer to have an attorney throughout the entire case, but simply cannot afford to make a large up-front retainer payment. In these situations, I am happy to break the case down into several individual events and charge only for that service. This allows my clients to spread the cost of the custody case out over time. It also means that you don’t have to be afraid to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail, because you won’t be getting a bill for that service.