One of the most important aspects to any divorce in which children are involved is child custody. With whom and where will they live?  Who will make important decisions about their lives? In child custody cases, our preferred course of action is to put the children ahead of all other martial issues.

When custody issues cannot be resolved in a cooperative and productive manner, the matters are brought before a judge for resolution.  The objective of the Family Law Courts in Massachusetts is to determine which parent is most capable of meeting the needs of the child, while fostering a relationship with both parents.

There are two types of custody — legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the responsibility of making the major decisions about the education, health, medical care, emotional development and religious education of your child. Joint legal custody occurs when both parents share the responsibility of these decisions — this is quite common in Massachusetts.

Physical custody refers to with whom the child will primarily live and who will be responsible for making the day-to-day decisions concerning the child. In Worcester County it is less common to see the Court order joint physical custody, unless agreed upon by both parents prior to a hearing.

The Court generally awards primary or sole physical custody to one of the parents, while the “noncustodial parent” is granted visiting rights. This determination may be based on the findings of a Court appointed “Guardian ad Litem,” (GAL) who is usually either a lawyer or psychologist. The GAL will evaluate the situation and make recommendations to the Court as to the best possible arrangement for the child.

It is important to keep in mind, no matter what the custody arrangement is, you will be co-parenting for years to come.

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State Massachusetts