Types of Child Custody in a Massachusetts Divorce

When it comes to child custody laws, fathers’ rights advocates have vigilantly sought to level the playing field; so father’s have the same opportunities as mothers to obtain sole physical custody. However, in some cases and jurisdictions, divorce courts unfortunately still tend to award the mother sole physical child custody, while granting child visitation rights for fathers. In all states, courts will seek to determine what’s in the very best interest of the child as a key legal standard when deciding child custody.
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Physical Child Custody – Massachusetts Divorce Law

In joint physical custody arrangements, children generally will live with one parent and be granted substantial visitation time with the other parent. This means that both parents will be able to play a role in actively raising their child or children. The parent that is with the child at any given time is the one solely responsible for the child’s day-to-day care and decision making. By law, they have the right and obligation to care for and raise the child without interference by the other parent.
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Legal Child Custody – Massachusetts Divorce Law

Joint legal custody of a child or children is much different than being awarded legal custody of a child. When parents are awarded joint legal custody of a child, this simply means that they are both equally responsible for making all the legal decisions for the child. This also means that both parents must consult with each other before making any changes that may affect the child. Many divorce courts are now in favor of joint legal custody unless it would not be in the best interest of the child.
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Mothers’ Child Custody Rights in Massachusetts

After a divorce, courts will generally prefer that parents be awarded joint child custody of children. Mothers, unless they are found unfit, will usually share physical child custody and legal child custody with the biological father. Typically in joint custody situations, children may live in either parent’s home, but they will have liberal child visitation with the other. In this situation, parents must work together and consult each other in making any major decisions regarding the child’s life.
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Massachusetts Child Custody Rights in Paternity Testing

In most states, mothers have the right to ask for paternity testing on behalf of a child against the alleged biological father. The court may order DNA paternity testing to determine if a man is the child’s biological father. After paternity is established, a mother has the right to seek child support from the biological father. A mother may also ask the court to order the biological father to obtain or share the costs of medical insurance for the child and pay a part of any uninsured medical expenses. A father’s child custody rights allow him to seek physical and legal child custody in a paternity action or after paternity has been determined; he may also be awarded child visitation rights.
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Some relatives do not have the same rights to visitation that grandparents have

Recently, many states have passed laws that give grandparents certain visitation rights with a child after a divorce or after the death of the child’s parent. Predictably, this has given rise to questions about whether this right should be extended to other close relatives, such as aunts, uncles and cousins. The issue came up recently in Minnesota, when a woman asked for visitation rights with her niece – the daughter of her recently deceased identical twin sister. The woman argued that since Minnesota has a law that gives visitation rights to grandparents, it only made sense to include other family members as well. But the Minnesota Supreme Court said that the law was to benefit grandparents and shouldn’t be extended to other relatives – except perhaps in unusual cases where another relative had previously been acting in place of the child’s parents.
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The Challenge of Changing Children’s Names after Divorce

After a couple divorced, the wife asked a court to change their two children’s last name to her maiden name. (The children had been given the husband’s last name at birth.) The judge agreed, saying that since the mother was the primary residential parent, it should be presumed that she was acting in the children’s best interests, and her decision should be respected. But the father appealed, and a higher court sided with him. The appeals court said that this result might make sense in the case of a child who was born out of wedlock. For instance, if a child were born as a result of a momentary physical relationship between a couple, or during a very brief relationship, then the parent who later assumed responsibility for the child might have a right to choose the most appropriate name. However, where children are the product of a marriage, and
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Are you legally married? Perhaps Not!

These days, a growing number of couples are opting out of traditional church weddings and are choosing instead to be married in less formal ceremonies, often presided over by a friend or relative rather than a priest or rabbi. That’s fine if that’s what the couple wants – but the problem is that some such weddings might not be technically valid under state law. A couple could live together for years assuming they’re legally married, and only find out otherwise much later when something unfortunate happens, such as a death or a divorce. Typically, a valid marriage requires a license, witnesses, and solemnization by someone with the legal authority to do so. “Legal authority” is the problem. In many states, this means either a justice of the peace or a person who has been ordained by a recognized religion. Many people believe that they can perform weddings if they’ve been
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What is Limited Assistance Representation in Massachusetts?

Limited Assistance Representation permits attorneys to assist a self represented litigant on a limited basis without undertaking a full representation of the client on all issues related to the legal matter for which the attorney is engaged. After the completion and assessment of a Limited Assistance Representation Pilot Project in the Hampden, Suffolk, and Norfolk Divisions of the Probate and Family Court Department pursuant to a Standing Order dated August 1, 2006, as amended from time to time, the Justices have concluded that limited assistance representation can be of significant benefit in expanding access to justice in the Trial Courts, and should be available in such Divisions and in connection with such matters as each Trial Court Department Chief Justice, in his or her discretion and with the approval of the Chief Justice for Administration and Management, may prescribe. ORDER Limited Assistance Representation may be implemented in any Department of
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