Kajko, Weisman & Colasanti, LLP

Bills would establish presumption for joint custody in MA

Many of our readers are aware of the importance of both parents continuing to be involved in the life of their children after divorce. Indeed, various studies have shown that when both parents can be there for their kids, the effects of divorce aren't so pronounced for them.

Unfortunately, most states do not have laws that take this research into account. As a result, non-custodial parents--often fathers--end up spending less time with the children, and that relationship can suffer as a result. Bills currently in the state legislature could, however, help change the situation.

Both bills would establish a preference for joint custody between divorcing parents, and would propose that children spend at least one third of their time with each parent. The bills, if passed, would make Massachusetts one of the only states to have such requirements, though a number of states are apparently considering similar measures.

Critics of the proposal say that the bill is misguided in that it puts the desires of parents above the needs of the children. The best interests of children are, in the end, the essential factor in making any child custody determination, though the law would arguable reduce judge's discretion in child custody determinations by establishing a defined arrangement. It isn't clear how legitimate that criticism is, though, since the law only establishes a presumption rather than a fixed rule. There are other criticisms of the law, but we'll just have to wait and see how things play out.

Child custody disputes can usually a very important for divorcing couples, and it is important to work with an experienced attorney to help represent one's interests in these issues, even if the decision is ultimately based on the best interests of the children. 

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