Parenting Plans Attorney in Worcester, Massachusetts
Perhaps the most difficult part of divorce is dealing with issues related to children.
Divorce can have a devastating effect on them. Roughly 50% of all children will experience the divorce of their parents in the United States. Moreover, studies show that children of divorced homes are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral issues, drop out of school, and be at an increased risk of suicide. Even when parents are not together, they can raise a child who feels secure. A parenting plan that encourages strong relationships between the child and both parents can provide your child(ren) with the security and love that will allow for an ongoing relationship with both parents and give your child(ren) the loving protection that each child needs to become a happy, effective and loving adult.
At Solutions Through Mediation, I work with parents every day who want their children to be on the right side of these statistics. Although the marriage may be over, the parent - child relationship lasts a lifetime.
If you want to know more about how parenting plans work in Worcester or throughout Worcester County and Massachusetts, reach out to me. Whether you want to establish child support, child custody, or create or modify a Parenting Plan, I can help you.
What Factors Are Considered in Massachusetts Child Support?
Like all states in the United States, Massachusetts courts use a formula to calculate child support. Multiple factors, such as each parent’s income, health insurance and childcare expenses are included in the calculations of the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet and the child custody arrangement, figure into that calculus to reach a level of financial support paid by one parent to the other. Typically, the higher earning parent will be the parent who pays the other parent Child Support.
In addition to the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, parents who wish to deviate from the amount that the Guidelines provide, they can file a Deviation Worksheet for approval by the Court. If the parents are in agreement and the Judge finds that their agreement is fair and reasonable, and in the best interests of the child(ren), the parents' agreement will be made an Order of the Court. An Attorney with child support expertise can help parents negotiate and/or mediate a Child Support Order that is acceptable to the parties and the Judge.
Massachusetts case law covers many scenarios which impact the way in which a Judge will review the Child Support obligations of each parent. Parents of children have ongoing obligations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to their children until each child is emancipated as provided in MGL ch. 208, sec. 28. There are situations where the Court will impute income to a parent who appears to be voluntarily unemployed to avoid their obligations to their child(ren). That means the income the parent should be earning, not necessarily what they are earning, will be used to calculate child support.
What Factors Are Considered in Massachusetts Child Custody Arrangements?
Child custody involves both physical custody and legal custody, and each can be awarded jointly or solely to one parent or the other. In Massachusetts, there is a presumption under the law that the parents of a child born during a marriage or to parents who have married after their child has been born share Legal Custody of that child.
A child born in Massachusetts to a mother who is not married to the father of the child, is deemed to be in the sole legal custody of the mother unless and until such time as the father is adjudicated to share legal custody with the mother.
When parents share legal custody, they are expected to make major decisions about such issues as a child’s education, medical care, religious practices, and factors related to their emotional and physical health, well-being, and safety.
The court recognizes that physical custody—that is, who the child spends time with—is best when shared by parents. Shared physical custody - more often in Massachusetts known as shared parenting time - promotes each parent’s continued relationship with the child which usually serves the child’s best interest. Although It is common for a child to reside primarily with one parent with whom the child spends more time than with the other parent, a shared parenting plan, which provides for approximately equal time with each parent, when followed ensures the more equal presence of both parents in the child’s life.
In contested parenting cases, the court will consider many factors, including the existing relationship between the child and each parent, each parent’s willingness to encourage the involvement of the other parent and that parent's ability and willingness to co-parent , as well as the parent’s moral, physical, and mental fitness, the parent's engagement with the child’s school, caregivers, medical providers and in the community. In the event that there are allegations of violence, abuse, neglect, or other negative behavior, DCF [the Department of Children and Families] will likely be involved.
How Do Massachusetts Parenting Plans Work?
Parenting plans are part and parcel of the child custody and child support agreements ordered by the court. Because they are court-ordered, they can be legally enforced. If a parent fails to follow the parenting plan, s/he may be found in Contempt of Court.
Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Judges encourage the parents to co-parent and to work together to provide a stable and healthy environment for their child(ren).
A family law attorney with experience in working with parents on Parenting Plans, can be enormously supportive in creating a Parenting Plan that will provide the child(ren) with a relationship with both parents that models cooperation and healthy negotiation skills.
Parenting Plans can be modified between the parties and Courts will approve such Modifications if they are in the best interest of the child(ren). Mediation is an excellent step toward reaching a new agreement to replace a Parenting Plan that is no longer meeting the needs of the family.
Parenting plans are obviously created at a certain moment in time. As the child gets older and as the lives of parents change, it may be necessary to modify the agreement to keep pace. Parenting plans, custody, and child support arrangements can be modified with the court’s approval when doing so in the child’s best interest and when there are substantial changes to justify them. Such changes might include the changing needs of the child, the changing relationship between a child and a parent, or a parent’s health condition, change in income, employment location, or remarriage.
Termination of child support in Massachusetts occurs when the child becomes emancipated; as defined by MGL ch. 208, sec. 28 a child is emancipated when s/he reaches the age of 18, has graduated from high school and is no longer a full-time student in a recognized post-high school educational program and is not yet 23. Many exceptions to this rule apply.
Parenting Plans Attorney Serving Worcester, Massachusetts
The establishment of child custody, child support, and parenting plans—and modification of such plans—can be complicated and contentious. Mediating these issues with an experienced and compassionate family law attorney can help you reach a Parenting Plan that will benefit your child, you and your ex-spouse. The Court will only approve an Agreement that is in the best interests of your child(ren). My goal is to help you to reach an Agreement that is fair and reasonable. Please contact me if you want to discuss parenting plans in Worcester and throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
call me at Solutions Through Mediation.