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…]