Common Myths In Massachusetts Family Law Every Parent Should Know
June 3, 2020
When it comes to divorcing and family law, things get complicated quickly. It’s essential to know your rights regarding your children. Presented here are some common myths every parent should be made aware of during divorce or custody proceedings.
Myth: A parent’s failure to pay child support can result in the parent being kept from seeing the children
Only a judge can determine visitation rights. If a parent fails to pay child support, the other parent is not automatically given the right to withhold visitation. The Court’s orders for visitation cannot be ignored simply because the child support account is two months or even two years delinquent.
Myth: If a parent doesn’t agree with the court orders, they can move the kids out of state
Once an action involving custody of children (divorce, domestic abuse, guardianship, etc.) is filed in Massachusetts, neither party can remove a child from the state without permission from the other parent or a judge. This act of moving a child out of state without permission can result in criminal charges. A modification with a compelling reason to move with the children, such as once-in-a-lifetime education, family, or work opportunity, must be filed to remove children from the state legally.
Myth: He/She cheated on me, so I should get everything
Infidelity is grounds for divorce in Massachusetts, however, in a divorce, a judge must consider many factors in making a decision, including all conduct of the parties during the entire marriage, good and bad. It is unlikely that proof of cheating will result in a full forfeit of the cheater’s portion of the division of the estate. Unless the children are exposed to the alleged cheating in highly inappropriate situations, infidelity has little bearing on issues in a divorce.
Myth: If a parent leaves the house due to domestic violence or other intolerable behavior without the children, that constitutes “abandonment”
The custody of children is always determined by the “best interests of the child.” If a parent temporarily flees with the intent and follow-through of getting the children to safety, they have not abandoned their family. Even in cases where “utter desertion” is the cause for divorce, this grounds for divorce relates to the spouse and not children.
Myth: I’m the better parent, so I’ll be granted full custody
Under Massachusetts law, shared legal custody is presumed by the courts unless there is evidence of abuse by one party or a total inability of the parties to communicate. Keep in mind there is a difference between legal and physical custody. Legal custody generally refers to the access to educational or medical records of the child and the ability to participate in extraordinary decisions concerning the child’s wellbeing. Physical custody is also determined by the courts and refers to visitation time. The Court will consider each parent’s time available to be with the child. Only in rare circumstances will a parent be given sole physical custody with no contact from the other parent.
If you’re going through a divorce or need the Court to reevaluate your current custody agreement, our legal team is here to help you navigate through the complexities of Massachusetts family law.