Factors that decide child custody in massachusetts
When making a contested custody decision in court, the judge will always rule with the best interests of the children in mind. Although there are not necessarily hard rules for determining the best interests of the children, here are some of the other factors that could weigh into this decision.
Each parent’s living situation
The living situation of each parent is taken into consideration during the decision-making process. Divorce can be especially stressful on children, so judges often look for a situation that would provide stability and continuity in their daily lives. If one parent does not have suitable housing, that could become an issue.
For example, a parent retaining the family home may be viewed more favorably than a parent staying on a friend’s couch. The proximity of two parents’ homes might also factor into a decision when one of the parties is looking for a shared parenting schedule. The closer the parent’s homes are to one another, the more likely it may be that the judge will award a time-sharing plan where each parent will get significant time with their child or children.
The child’s preference
In cases where the child is old enough—usually over the age of at least 12—a judge may take the children’s preferences for where they want to live and why into consideration. In cases where a child’s preference may be looked at, a Guardian Ad Litem or ARC attorney for the child is often appointed as it is very unusual for a judge to speak directly to a child. Most judges share the opinion that children should be kept out of the court process as much as possible.
Most judges will listen to the rationale behind a child’s desire, as it is not uncommon for parents to try to unfairly influence a child into picking them or because a child just wants to go with the parent who is more lenient than the other. Regardless of age, a child’s preference is only one of many factors that a judge may take into consideration.
Work obligations of both parents
The work obligations of each parent can be another key factor in a custody battle. Finding a balance between work and parenting can be difficult even when parents are living together, and although it is important to provide financially for the child, spending time with them to accommodate for their psychological and developmental needs is also essential. A parent spending too much time at work may be at a disadvantage against a parent who has a flexible schedule and is able to work with their child’s schedule. Different judges take different views on how much to look at what the norm was before the separation versus the fact that upon no longer living together both parents’ schedules are going to need to change. Just because one parent worked more prior to the separation, some judges just want to know that they can now have enough flexibility with their work schedule to allow the parent to be there during his or her parenting time.
Contacting an experienced divorce lawyer
Determining child custody and a parenting schedule based on the best interests of the child in a contested custody battle can be very conflicting and difficult. If you would like to learn more about other factors that influence child custody or if you need legal representation, reach out to us at O’Connor Family Law. Our lawyers have experience with custody battles and can fight by your side to help you get the best outcome possible.