Child custody and visitation

Guardian Ad Litem v. ARC Attorney

 

In Massachusetts, the standard set by the legislature regarding custody (legal and physical) of minor children is what is in the children’s “best interest”. In highly contested custody cases, it is sometimes necessary to involve additional professionals to assist the Court in making this determination.  Two types of professionals are Guardian Ad Litems and ARC attorneys.
Guardian Ad Litem
Guardian Ad Litems (GALs) are typically either mental health professionals who specialize in working with separating families or family law attorneys who have taken additional required training in order to act in this capacity.  The appointment of a GAL can be requested by one or both of the parties or appointed by the Judge in her/her discretion. The role of the GAL is to determine what is in the best interests of the children and to provide the Court with a report regarding their investigation and their conclusion. The GAL speaks with the parties, the children and other collaterals (family members, friends, teachers, etc.).  If a GAL wants to speak with the children’s therapist then a special GAL has to be appointed to determine whether or not the children’s therapist-patient privilege should be waived. The GAL’s report is available for the parties and attorneys to review at the courthouse. The GAL can be called to testify in court. Judges often given great deference to the GAL report.

The cost of the GAL is expensive and may range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the nature of the case.  If the parties have assets or access to funds, the Court will often order the parties to share the cost equally.  In some cases, the Court will designate that one party pay for the GAL in full or the parties […]

Is Shared Physical Custody Possible?

There has been a growing trend in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts in the philosophy that parents should, barring certain circumstances, have shared physical custody of their minor children.  In this firm, we have seen a trend of parents who ask for what’s “fair” or “half of the time”.  However, a parenting plan is dynamic and may not always appear to be equal.  Custody is possible to share but whether it’s in the best interest of the child(ren) is determined by the parties or ultimately the Court.

Physical custody is defined by where the children reside and who is responsible for making the day-to-day decisions regarding the children. Traditionally in a divorce, it was automatically presumed the mother was the primary caretaker of the children during the relationship/marriage and therefore, she was awarded primary physical custody of the children.  In Paternity cases, (where the parties are unmarried) under the law, it still is presumed to be the Mother.

With that said, times are changing.  Women are working and becoming more and more financially independent.  With that, father’s rights have come to the forefront and courts have started to analyze the question, “why not?”.  If we have two working, capable, and loving parents – who both work, rely on others for various caretaking tasks and chores, what’s the tie breaker?  We see that there are more dual-income families, there has been a real shift in a shared parenting plans.  Children perform better when parents can continue their relationship post-divorce.  Clearly, this is not the same husband/wife relationship but the relationship should evolve to a co-parenting relationship.  This is what is required to have a successful shared physical custody plan.  The Courts have seen an increase in shared […]

  • Child Custody, Paternity, Support, Massachusetts
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    When there’s love and a baby carriage, but no marriage: how an attorney can assist an unmarried parent in establishing paternity, custody, and child support.

When there’s love and a baby carriage, but no marriage: how an attorney can assist an unmarried parent in establishing paternity, custody, and child support.

When there’s love and a baby carriage, but no marriage
How an attorney can assist an unmarried parent in establishing paternity, custody, and child support.
Families come in all shapes and sizes but when the parents of a child are not married parental rights are different than they are for married couples who separate after the birth of their children. There are a great many factors to consider in these circumstances including the legal implications and the legal options that may be available to you.

In Massachusetts, the mother has “presumed” legal and physical custody of a child from a non-marital relationship. Presumed means that the mother has custody until the Court is shown otherwise. In other words, this custody can be challenged when the father asserts his rights in Court. That doesn’t mean that suddenly the father has custody because he files a complaint. It means that the Court will then decide custody based on the best interest of the child using a variety of factors. Such factors could include the parents’ backgrounds, support systems, and geography as well as a parent’s relationship with the child.
Navigating the Courts
It’s important to note that the Courts encourage parents to work together and coordinate a resolution that works for their family. When that doesn’t happen, there are various ways to obtain custody, parenting time and child support through the Court. Our office can assist you in navigating the Courts in this process and determining what options are available to you to ensure that your rights are protected.
Choose An Experienced Family Law Attorney
At Cohen Cleary, P.C. we have extensive experience representing clients in Family Law matters involving paternity, custody, and child support. We will advocate on your behalf to ensure […]