When parents separate or divorce, children are often caught in the middle. Parents struggle over custody and scheduling parenting time. Each of the participants have rights when making these important decisions. It can’t be forgotten that any agreements involving children must be in the children’s best interest. Massachusetts courts have upheld this assumption.
Couples have children both in and out of wedlock. Many of these relationships don’t last. Children need to continue to have a relationship with both parents despite the difficulties parents may have with each other. Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 208 provides guideline for children born to a married couple. MGL Ch. 209C covers children born out of wedlock.
Agreements for parenting time must take the safety of all parties into consideration. When there has been child abuse or domestic violence in the relationship, supervised parenting time may be necessary. Alternative plans may be established for transfer of children between parents also.
There are many issues to consider when establishing a formal agreement over parenting time. Agreements that are well thought out and that the parents discussed together have the best outcomes. The courts usually prefer that parents develop their own voluntary agreement. Agreements should have as much detail as possible to prevent conflicts over situations that might come up that are not covered.
Some of the things to consider when making a parenting plan:
- How often should parenting time occur and how long should they be?
- Family events such as weddings and reunions.
- School events, athletics, other extracurricular activities.
- Out of town or out of state vacations or travel rules
- Major holidays – How should they be shared or split between parents?
- Special recurring holidays and celebrations –
- Fathers and Mother’s Day
- School vacations
What if one parent needs to cancel or reschedule their time? How should parenting time be coordinated including pick-up and drop-off arrangements? Every possible situation is difficult to predict. Disputes and modifications are less likely if an agreement is complete.
If you have question regarding whether your current agreement serves your needs and is in the best interests of your children, please call our office to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.