Child Custody Attorneys in Salem, Massachusetts
Custody is about the protection and care of a child. There is little dispute between parents about the need to protect and care for their children. There are, however, sometimes heated disagreements about who should provide for them and when.
Child custody is not the purview only of a divorcing couple with minor children. It is a factor among any parents, regardless of any relationship they ever had with one another, so long as they share a child. The love a parent has for a child usually means that legal and physical custody of that child is fraught with emotion.
At Lamb and Lamb, P.C., we understand that the legal process surrounding child custody does not always seem to fit with a parent’s processing of emotions on the issue. Our clients in Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Lynnfield, Peabody, and the surrounding areas in Massachusetts help us understand what they believe is at stake for them and their children. We listen, and we use our legal knowledge and experience to help.
What Are the Variables of Child Custody in Massachusetts?
There are two key options for forging a child custody agreement in Massachusetts. First, parents can discuss the details of an agreement in an effort to create one on their own. If parents can agree to the terms, they can present it to the judge for approval.
If parents cannot agree on the plan details, the judge will decide. Each parent will have an opportunity to argue their position, and the judge will listen, determine what they believe is in the children’s best interests, and rule accordingly.
In all cases, the agreement is driven by the best interests of the child, not that of either parent. Whether the agreement is submitted by the parents, or they argue their positions in court, a child custody order will be issued by the judge.
You should also know that even if you and the other parent believe you can work out an agreement on your own, you benefit from the guidance of a child custody attorney. Only your attorney will be protecting your best interests throughout the legal process.
What Are the Types of Child Custody?
Joint custody is where both parents share the legal and/or physical custody of their children. If sole custody is awarded, only the parent awarded custody will have physical custody of the children or make legal decisions for them.
Unless a parent poses a risk to their children, joint custody is usually awarded. There is a presumption by the court that parents should share time with and decisions about their children.
Legal custody deals with major decisions parents need to make for their children. Such decisions include where they attend school and church, decisions regarding their health and medical care, and other important decisions about their lives. If sole legal custody is granted, only one parent has the authority to make these choices.
Parenting time with a child is part and parcel of physical custody. Even when joint physical custody is awarded, one parent will have primary physical custody. Where that parent lives will be the children’s primary residence. The other parent will spend time with them according to the visitation schedule which is part of the parenting plan.
What Factors Will Be Considered in Granting Custody?
In determining what is in the best interests of children involved in custody matters, the court looks at multiple factors. These include the relationships the children share with each parent and each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs. The judge will review the living arrangements, work demands, and relationships of each parent, as well as how far apart the parents live from one another.
If the child is mature enough to express a preference regarding custody, the court will weigh it. There is no specific age requirement, nor does the judge have to agree with the child.
One of the considerations of a child’s best interest is the relationship between the parents. The court is looking for a parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Can a Child Custody Order Be Changed?
Life changes all the time. The court makes decisions regarding child custody based on the time in which the matter comes before it. However, children mature, and the situations of parents change. For those reasons, Massachusetts law provides for the modification of child custody, but it does not do so lightly.
Modifying a child custody agreement requires significant alterations in the circumstances under which the order was first made. If those changes affect the agreement, either parent may ask the court to modify it.
Examples of material changes include a significant change in the health status or income of a parent, the relocation of a parent, a parent’s marriage, a parent’s repeated noncompliance with the existing order, or a change in the child’s preference regarding which parent they live with.
Child custody orders must be complied with until the court issues a modified order.
Child Custody Attorneys Serving Salem, Massachusetts
As family law attorneys in Salem, Massachusetts, we see families struggle with child custody matters. They are difficult and emotional. We provide guidance and support to the parents we represent to help ease the challenge. If you are facing the establishment of child custody or modification of an existing child custody order, call Lamb and Lamb, P.C. today. We are prepared to help.