Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Understanding child custody laws may avoid disputes and trauma

It is not uncommon for Massachusetts couples who are considering divorce to hold back on filing in court because of the trauma that is often associated with child custody disputes. Couples may find it beneficial to gain knowledge on matters related to child custody. Once they understand how it works, they may agree that it is possible to work through the issues and find mutual agreement about child custody and parenting plans.

Although child custody laws differ from state to state, the aim of all family courts is to protect the best interest of the child. Considering that this is also likely to be what parents want for their children, they only need to agree on what is best for their children. However, if that proves impossible, the court will have to decide. The court’s decision is usually based on which situation would prove to least unsettle the children, including their familiarity with surroundings such as schools, neighborhood and the house.

While many couples opt for joint custody, it may not be the ideal situation for all. Mediators are available for helping parents with drafting a parenting plan; however, if no consensus can be found, it will again be up to the court to decide. The same factors are taken into consideration if the court has to decide on which parent should have custodial rights, along with allocating visitation schedules as it sees fit.

Massachusetts parents who are able to communicate and compromise may avoid a situation whereby the court decides who will have legal custody. The parent who is granted legal child custody will be the one who decides over important matters, such as religious choices and the selection of schools. Couples who fail to communicate may want to use the available services of mediators to guide them to mutually accepted agreements that will make for a smooth transition from married to divorced, while still serving the best interest of the children.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "For Divorced Parents: Know Your Child Custody and Visitation Rights", , June 25, 2014

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