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How Does Joint Custody Work in a Massachusetts Divorce?


Several tough decisions need to be made once you decide to divorce, and the decisions having to do with the well-being of your children are the most important. The Massachusetts family law courts usually like to award joint custody unless the involvement or presence of one parent is considered damaging to the interests of the child.

Joint Legal vs. Joint Physical Custody

Even if the court gives sole physical custody to one parent, it may still award joint legal custody to both parties. This means that although the children will physically live with one parent only, but both parents will be equally involved in making important decisions to the children’s upbringing regarding schooling, medical needs, type of religious upbringing, etc.

If you have the joint custody of your child, you as well as your ex-spouse will share the responsibility for making all the major decisions in the child’s life. The only scenario in which a parent can be denied joint custody is if they have a history of alcohol or drug abuse or violent behavior or placing their child in dangerous situations.

In a joint physical custody situation, the child lives part-time with each parent. But in some cases this arrangement may not be practical for the child to spend exactly equal amount of time in two different homes.

If you are facing child custody issues, talking to a seasoned family attorney in Massachusetts will help protect your rights and the best interests of your kids. Top-rated child custody lawyer Jay Davis at Davis Law Group understands that unlike financial issues, which can be preserved on paper and usually revisited again sometime in the future, custody and visitation issues are extremely time-sensitive. To consult with him regarding your case, give us a call at (617) 752-6216 or write to us online.

Common Joint Physical Custody Arrangements

Most families in Massachusetts are made up of two parents who work outside the home, so as a result, fathers are more involved in raising children. Then there are lesbian and gay couples who are parenting with legalized marriage and co-adoption. When parents separate in these situations, there is generally a heightened interest in sharing joint physical custody. Shared physical custody also goes a long way toward maintaining the children’s relationship with both their parents and is typically an ideal solution for families especially if both parents work full-time.

There are two physical custody arrangements in Massachusetts: shared/joint or sole. When you’re creating a custody or visitation schedule, you must pick one. If you choose joint physical custody, your child will live with each parent at least 146 overnights or 40% of the year. The courts prefer this arrangement if both parents are competent.

In case of sole physical custody, the kid lives with one parent more than 60% of the time. The other parent usually still gets to spend time with the child unless the court believes it’s not wholesome or suitable for the child’s well-being. Once you have determined the kind of physical custody you want, you need to make a schedule that meets your family’s needs and the custody’s parameters. Here are some of the most common schedules:

1 Week On, 1 Week Off Visitation Schedule

In this schedule, a child spends one week with one parent and then goes to another parent for the next week. Both parents get to spend equal amount of time with their children this way. It’s best for older children since number of exchanges is less.

2-2-3 Visitation Schedule

This is a truly equal shared custody plan where each parent gets to spend equal amount of time with the children. In this schedule, your child lives with one parent for two days of the week, then spends the next two days with the other parent, and returns to the first parent for the remaining three days of the week. This residential schedule keeps switching every week.

This plan is considered great when you have young children because they won’t have to stay away from a parent for more than 3 days in one go. But if you have older kids, this may seem too stressful for them. If you can’t decide on a schedule, talking to a family attorney will help you make a decision that’s best for you as well as your kids. For a free, no-obligation legal consultation, call Jay Davis at (617) 752-6216 or contact us online.

How to Create a Custody Schedule

When creating a schedule, make sure it specifies the following details:

  • If/when each parent can take the child on vacation
  • If/how parents will split time during summer breaks
  • If/how parents will split time on special occasions and holidays
  • If/how parents will split time on weekends and weekdays

It should be specified that the regular parenting schedule will be suspended during the holidays. Also, specify what will happen if the holidays conflict with the special schedule for school breaks.

You should also state details regarding the vacation time: how long can a vacation last? Is it okay if the child misses school? Is it okay if it overlaps with the other parent’s scheduled time? How soon must the other parent be notified about the trip?

Get a Free Legal Consultation With an Accomplished Child Custody Attorney

Deciding matters of child custody is not easy. These decisions are going to have a long-term impact on you as well as your child. So, it goes without saying that you need an attorney who will help you navigate these issues with diligence, care, and understanding.

Child custody attorney Jay Davis and his legal team at Davis Law Group can help you and your ex-spouse to create a mutually-agreeable shared custody plan which will be approved by the court and will best serve the interests of your child. But if your ex is unwilling to cooperate, Jay is tenacious enough to formulate a solid strategy to ensure that your custody rights are protected. For a no-obligation, free legal consultation, call us today at (617) 752-6216 or reach us online.

The post How Does Joint Custody Work in a Massachusetts Divorce? first appeared on Davis Law Group.
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