Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Child custody myths may puzzle divorcing couples in Massachusetts

Most divorces present multiple challenges to both spouses, and couples who are unable to work through contentious matters may find themselves fighting long and stressful battles. Issues such as child custody, child support and spousal support may bring out the worst in some individuals. It is not uncommon for Massachusetts individuals to be influenced by other people; however, every divorce is different, and most divorce myths are untrue.

The most difficult part of any divorce is typically child custody, and while state child custody laws may differ, the basics are the same. The myth that the mother always gets custody is simply not true. Although mothers were favored in the past, times have changed, and the courts recognize that more households have dual-incomes and many fathers are active participants in their children’s lives. Laws in all states favor shared parenting time if it is in the best interest of the child. Parents need not accept that child custody is a matter to fight for, in fact, families may want to find a way to work through the problems, rather than having a stranger make those decisions.

Parents who have an amicable divorce may think it is unnecessary to draw up a parenting plan, however, situations are known to change. When a step-parent enters one or both the homes, issues may arise, and it may be a good idea to draw up a parenting plan to schedule visitation times for school holiday, summer and the school year. Even if couples manage to get along without a schedule, this agreement can be followed in the event of arguments arising. Another myth that should not be taken seriously is the one that says a parent can deny visitation if child support is not paid. These are two entirely separate matters, and custody cannot be affected by child support obligations.

Divorcing couples in Massachusetts who are unable to settle contentious issues and reach agreements, while still addressing the best interests of the children, may find comfort knowing that the services of mediators are available. The wisdom and experience of an objective third party may lead couples to mutual understandings about child custody and other matters through communication and compromise. Not having to fight these matters in court may allow both parents to start their new lives, while minimizing the adverse effects the divorce may have on the children.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Five Custody Myths Separating Parents Need to Know", Carla Schiff Donnelly, June 5, 2014

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