Child custody disputes are an aspect of family law that typically occurs through a divorce or another family circumstance. Legal custody of a child determines who will be responsible for making major decisions in a child’s life. Major decisions can be defined as choices about health care, school, religion, consent to marry, obtaining a driver’s license and joining the military.
Types of Child Custody
Joint custody means that both parents have equal rights when it comes to making major decisions for their children. It is assumed that legal custody is joint unless there are specific reasons that the court grants sole custody.
Sole custody means one parent has been granted the authority to make major decisions for the children. One reason why the court may grant sole custody is if there is domestic violence involved or if the parents are incapable of agreeing on important decisions that are in the child’s best interests.
Child Custody Beyond Divorce
It is important to remember that child custody issues do not only exist in divorce cases. Legal custody may be contested if a child’s parents are no longer living, or if there are other extraordinary circumstances. Also, custody is only an issue until the child is emancipated, as deemed by the state of Massachusetts. Child support guidelines apply to children ages 0-18 and children over 18 who are still attending high school. However, emancipation of a child may be up to the child’s 23rd birthday if the child is attending secondary education on a full-time basis and still dependent on the child support recipient.
Although legal custody may appear to be cut and dry, it can be complicated when a parent refutes the decision made by the court – this can result in a custody battle, where one parent is either trying to prove or disprove the necessity for sole custody. In the case of a divorce filed on fault grounds, custody will be awarded to the spouse with a stronger case.
Schedule Your Consultation
Our family law and child custody attorneys can help you determine custody issues in the best interest of you and your children. If you need any assistance or guidance regarding your child custody case, call us to schedule your consultation.