Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Joint legal and physical child custody may present problems

While many divorcing couples in Massachusetts manage to resolve child custody issues, often by utilizing the services of attorneys and mediators, some are not able to reach agreements that would suit both parents and children. When this is the case, the family court may have to make these decisions on behalf of the parents. Regardless of the wishes of the parents, a judge will base child custody and visitation decisions on the best interests of the children.

In general, there are two types of child custody available. A parent could be awarded joint custody or physical custody and, in some cases, both. Legal child custody involves all matters concerning decisions related to the child's welfare and the way he or she will be raised, along with decisions about issues such as schools and medical care. Physical custody involves at which parent's home the child will live, along with visitation arrangements.

In true joint custody, both parents share legal and physical custody, meaning they make legal decisions together and spend equal amounts of time with the child. In some cases, joint physical custody creates problems for parents whose occupation or location may make it impossible to care for the child during his or her 50 percent allocation of the parenting time. It is more prevalent for a mother and father to share legal custody while one parent has primary physical custody. A parenting plan will then be drafted to allocate the parent without physical custody a fair amount of visitation time.

A Massachusetts parent confronting child custody matters may benefit from a consultation with an experienced family law attorney. The lawyer can provide information about applicable child custody laws and assist in negotiating a successful parenting plan. With all these facts available, a parent may be able to make informed decisions that will protect their personal interests while maintaining the best interests of the child.

Source: FindLaw, "Joint Custody", Accessed on Feb. 20, 2015

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