What to do when your ex refuses to comply with your parenting schedule?

Once you’ve completed the process of going through a divorce, settling on child support, and agreeing to a parenting schedule, you’d think you can finally move forward and start your new life. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

When you’re facing the frustrating reality that your ex simply won’t comply with your legally binding agreements, whether that be alimony payments or a parenting schedule, you have options. Massachusetts residents can file a complaint for contempt to address non-compliance with temporary orders and final judgments.

Understanding the ins and out of contempt proceedings is an essential part of litigation in the Probate and Family Court, which is why working with an attorney is vital. Anyone found violating a court order, such as failing to pay child support, denying parenting time, etc., may be considered to be in contempt of court.

The court can enforce a defendant to comply with the order(s) in violation by filing a contempt order. To begin the process, a Complaint for Contempt must be filed through the Probate and Family Court that issued the order being violated. Next, a court clerk provides a Contempt Summons—a court order that instructs the defendant when they are expected in court. A deputy sheriff or constable will then serve the defendant with the original summons.

The burden of proof in contempt actions falls to the plaintiff. For help understanding your options when your ex, or soon to be ex, fails to comply with a court order, contact our law office today.

What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?

Courts primarily base their decision on what is in the child’s best interest, using the Child’s Best Interest Standard. Factors vary from state to state, but the overall goal is to make a decision that promotes the health and wellbeing of the child.

Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement on matters of child custody and visitation to submit to the court. However, if the judge finds the settlement agreement is not in the child’s best interest, it can be rejected.

Courts will generally determine the stability of each parent’s home environment and their interest and commitment to caring for the child. Other factors include the health of each parent, both physical and mental; the special needs of the child, if any; the child’s own wishes if they are old enough to say so; whether there is evidence of illicit drug use, or drug/alcohol abuse; and adjustment to the community, such as where they go to school, proximity to other caretakers, etc. [Read more…]

Altering Your Child Custody Agreement

  • My ex-spouse has asked to pick up our children, of whom we share custody, at a different time from that stated in our custody agreement. I’m fine with the change. Do we need to alter the agreement, or is a verbal agreement enough?

The is almost always going to be “get it in writing.” While you may have the most amicable divorce in the world, you never know what the future may hold. Contracts fill the gaps left when human trust fails.

If this is a one-time, or two-time situation, a verbal agreement might suffice. Of course, without putting it in writing, if you agree to a “quick change,” you may find yourself agreeing to a years-long arrangement without intending to. [Read more…]

My Kids Hate the Custody Arrangement – What Can I Do to Change It?

Even in the best of circumstances, divorce can be difficult for children. Children are often resistant to change: adapting to new schedules and surroundings, learning to live with one parent at a time, and getting along with possible new stepsiblings or half-siblings are all big changes, ones which can challenge a child’s developing social skills and coping mechanisms. However, many, if not most, children with divorced parents eventually adapt and thrive, growing into healthy and well-adjusted adults.

There are cases, however, where a child’s discomfort with a custody arrangement goes beyond natural resistance to change, beyond the fairly standard complaints of “I don’t like it here” or “I like dad’s house better.”

Perhaps there is serious, ongoing, and frequent conflict between the child and one of the custodial parents, a conflict that makes living with that parent a deeply anxious situation for the child. Perhaps the conflict is with a stepparent or stepsibling and a child’s grades are dropping as a result of the distress. [Read more…]

Child Custody And The Holidays

The winter holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they are also a top contender for the most stressful time of the year. Regardless of family structure, holiday gatherings and visits can be contentious. Under the stress of cleaning and cooking and visiting in-laws, even close-knit nuclear families, amicably divorced co-parents, or happily mixed step-families might experience some tension and conflict around this time of the year.

Given the stress of preparing for holidays, and the emotions invested in family celebrations, it is more important than ever for there to be good channels of communication about scheduling. When child custody agreements are involved, communication is even more important, especially if custody arrangements or their enforcement have been contentious issues in the past.

Many shared custody agreements drawn up as part of the divorce settlements will specify holiday visitation and custody rights for each parent. For example, one parent may have the children for Thanksgiving and New Year’s, with the other parent having Christmas and the surrounding days. In the next year, the parents might swap time periods, following an alternating schedule laid out in the custody agreement. [Read more…]

My soon-to-be-ex-spouse is a bad influence on our children.

How can I get full custody of my children?

A judge will be unlikely to respond to the argument “My ex is a bad influence” or “My ex doesn’t know what is best for the children.” Judges hear these arguments all day, every day, during acrimonious divorce proceedings. What a parent needs to prove the former partner is not a fit parent is plenty of evidence.

The aim of divorce courts in deciding custody arrangements is to further the best interest of the child or children. For young children, this might mean keeping them with their primary caregiver. Otherwise, the court looks for a parent’s involvement with children, ability to provide financially, and ability to provide a stable environment for children. The more involved you are with your children, and the more ‘upstanding’ you are as a citizen, the more likely you are to receive at least some custody.

Importantly, courts will also consider the circumstances of the divorce. Massachusetts allows for both no-fault (no grounds) and at-fault (on grounds) divorces. The grounds for divorce in Massachusetts include, among others, adultery, total abandonment of a spouse, cruel and abusive behavior, and criminal conviction with a sentence of five years or more.

If you have evidence of disturbing patterns of behavior towards yourself and/or your children at the hands of your (soon-to-be) ex-spouse, this could form the grounds for an at-fault divorce or for you to receive primary custody.

Whatever the circumstances, if you are considering divorce, or are currently undergoing a divorce without a lawyer, call our office to discuss your options.

Massachusetts Cases Provides Guidance for Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Divorces

Massachusetts was a leader in its early recognition of same-sex marriages. Logic dictates that the Commonwealth will also have more experience with same-sex divorce and family law matters, including child custody and support issues in cases involving the dissolution of a same-sex marriage. Three Massachusetts cases do, in fact, reflect that experience.In a 2006 same-sex divorce case (A.H. v M.P., 447 Mass. 828), one partner never adopted the child of her partner, although she was well aware of the importance of pursuing a formal adoption. Her former partner was the child’s primary caregiver. The court determined that she had no legal right to parenting time and had no support obligations as a “de facto” parent. The result in this case indicates how critical it is for one partner in a same-sex marriage to adopt the other partner’s biological child if the first partner desires to continue to have a parental relationship with that child in the event of a dissolution of a marriage.

A Massachusetts court had previously considered the rights and responsibilities of a “de facto” parent. In a 1999 case (E.N.O. v. L.L.M., 429 Mass. 824), the court determined that an adult who has no biological relation to a child, but who has participated in the child’s life as a member of his family, may be entitled to parenting time and visitation rights following dissolution of the relationship. The “de facto” parenting standard is thus a function of the facts of each specific case. A same-sex parent who does not actively participate in a child’s upbringing while a marriage is intact will have little opportunity to continue any relationship with that child after the marriage dissolves.

A more positive result came in a 2012 case (Della Corte v. Ramirez, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 906), in which the court verified that a child born within a same-sex marriage is the legitimate child of both partners. At least under Massachusetts law, adoption is not required to confer legal parentage on the non-biological parent. Other states might treat this situation differently, however, and formal adoption is still a failsafe approach to ensure both partners’ rights to a legal parental relationship with a child.

Child custody and support issues in dissolutions of same-sex marriages will likely evolve over the next several years. Partners who expect to have a continuing relationship with their children in the event of a divorce should not assume, however, that the law will favor their rights. The best course of action is to consult with an experienced family law attorney to verify that both partners’ parental rights are in their strongest position early in the relationship. If you have questions about child custody in a same-sex divorce, please call our office to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

[Read more…]

Child Custody Laws in Massachusetts – What You Need To Know.

Divorce is described as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Add children to the mix, coupled with questions of custody, support, and visitation, and emotions and stress can reach a breaking point. Wading through this difficult time calls for the help of a professional such as a divorce & family law attorney who also understands laws specific to Massachusetts.

Before you meet with an attorney, here are few pieces of information about child custody in Massachusetts that you’ll need to know in order to develop questions pertaining to your situation.

Two primary forms of child custody in Massachusetts

Physical custody determines where a child will live during certain periods of time.

Legal custody determines which parent has authority to make major decisions as in the doctor the child sees, the school the child attends, and even in which faith to raise the child. [Read more…]

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