The most challenging part of divorce when you have children may be deciding who gets custody of the child. Generally, courts will determine whether to award sole or shared legal custody, as well as whether to award sole or shared physical custody. Legal custody gives one or both parents the right to make decisions relating to the child’s upbringing. These decisions could involve the child’s religion, schooling, medical and dental care, and/or after school activities. Physical custody essentially means that the child will reside with one or both parents, and the parent will be responsible for supervising the child whenever he or she is residing with them.
When courts are determining custody, their focus will be on the best interests of the child. In other words, a court will consider a number of factors when making its custody decision, but all the factors will relate to making sure the child will grow up in a stable environment and be under the care of someone who is willing and able to support them physically, emotionally, and financially.
Factors to Consider When Determining Custody
Some of the factors for courts to consider include the living situation of each parent, proximity of the parents’ homes to one another, each parent’s work obligations and income levels, the current role of each parent in the child’s life, history of drug or substance abuse and/or domestic violence, and the child’s preference, if they are old enough.
If both parents are able and willing to provide for the child, and they live fairly near each other, the court will be more likely to award shared physical and legal custody. However, shared custody does not necessarily mean 50-50, particularly when it comes to physical custody. An attorney specializing in Massachusetts family law can help you get the custody outcome that is best for your child.