Child custody is a loaded term.; Now more than ever, both parents generally want to have significant time with their children after divorce. That is why in Massachusetts, the more modern term for child custody is; parenting plan.
A Parenting Plan is a written plan outlining:
- the responsibilities of each parent for the children,
- where the children will primarily reside and
- when they will be with each parent.
Divorce mediation in which mediation for child custody is a topic provides an excellent setting where an open, productive, and facilitated discussion as to the best living arrangements for the children after the divorce can take place. Mediation is a place where parents can come together and plan for their children. Decisions about where their children are will be decided by the parents, not the courts. Parents can communicate with each other with the assistance of the mediator, about their concerns, possible parenting plans and schedules. Child custody laws can be discussed in an open and non-defensive way.
In mediation, the concerns about child custody can be defused and the parents can begin to think of the best plan for their children, bearing in mind the parents’ own needs and schedules, and their desire to have a quality relationship with their children. In cases where custody becomes an issue, child custody mediation can be used as an alternative to court hearings, costly appointments of guardians ad litem to investigate, and appointments of attorneys for the children. Everyone benefits from mediating child custody issues.
For more information about parenting plans, see the Model Parenting Plans released by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Department.
CHILD REMOVAL (MOVING OUT OF STATE)
Sometimes in a divorce action (or at a time subsequent to the divorce), a parent will want to move out of state with the children. This is termed “removal”. Because this affects the parent who remains in Massachusetts (and the children’s access to that parent), standards to permit child removal are quite high.
The issue of child removal from the Commonwealth is an issue well suited to resolution in mediation. The trained family mediator experienced in child custody mediation can lead a discussion between the parents as to the options and the proposed the parenting plan after a removal. This can lead parents to discover a resolution regarding child removal without litigation.