When a Massachusetts couple goes through a divorce, in most cases one parent will become the custodial parent while the other parent will have visitation rights. While many non-custodial parents ensure that they visit with their children during their scheduled parenting time, others decide that they no longer want to or cannot see their children.
Massachusetts residents who are divorcing a spouse with a history of violence often have concerns about their children's safety and their own safety. Parents who want to ensure their children's safety may have questions about their ex-spouses' eligibility to receive custody or visitation rights if they have been abusive toward their families in the past.
In Massachusetts, grandparents may win visitation rights to their grandchildren. While it may be possible to limit the time that grandparents have to see their grandchildren, there needs to be good reason to do so. For instance, if a grandparent is abusive to the child or teaching the child to hate his or her parents, that may be grounds to limit visitation time. However, a court will not typically deny a grandparent visitation rights simply because a parent requests that such a ruling is made.
Figuring out child custodial issues can be a difficult endeavor, but even once they are resolved, further complications can arise when it comes to visitation by the noncustodial parent. In some cases, a judge will order a fixed visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent, but when two parents can manage to work together, they may agree on "reasonable visitation". Massachusetts parents who agree to this see several benefits, but this type of arrangement isn't right in every situation.
Massachusetts residents are likely familiar with the statistic often cited by the media that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. While that may have been true in the 1970s and 1980s, figures show that the divorce rate has been falling steadily for several years. Observers say that if current trends continue, the divorce rate will fall to about a third in the near future.
Under certain circumstances, it may become necessary for a Massachusetts custodial parent to relocate with his or her child. However, this may create logistical problems if the other parent has the right to visit or has partial custody of the child. Typically, it is the responsibility of the relocating parent to come up with a visitation schedule that is agreeable to the other parent and in the best interests of the child.
While a divorce case is pending in Massachusetts, a judge may issue temporary child custody orders. These orders last only until the final divorce and custody hearing, at which time the judge will hear evidence and issue the permanent custody orders that will govern the child's residence, visitation and the parents' responsibility for decision-making.
As is the case in other states, there are two types of child custody arrangements that a Massachusetts court could order when parents end their marriage. The types are legal and physical custody, and such arrangements might be ordered as part of a divorce settlement that is accepted by the court or through a litigated divorce.
Earlier this month we wrote a blog post about legal issues that could arise when a parent who shares custody of a child with the other parent decides to relocate. In that post we discussed what generally needs to happen with the custody agreement before a parent can make the move. For example, a relocation considered to be significant, such as moving to another country, would need to be approved by the court. The failure to secure that approval could lead to legal problems for the parent who took the child. A woman from the east coast is currently facing that reality.
Sharing custody of a child can be a significant challenge for parents across Massachusetts. Unlike other family legal issues, child custody arrangements are ongoing and may need to go through some adjustments over time.