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Options in a Massachusetts Child Custody Settlement

Custody of a child can be a very delicate and emotional issue for both parties. Although some cases do go to court, the vast majority of parents manage to reach a settlement outside of the courtroom.

If you are going through a divorce, there are a variety of different ways for you to decide upon the final written settlement agreement. Read on to find out which might be the most suitable for your situation.

Informal Negotiations

In situations where both parents are willing to work well together for the sake of their children, this can be the most preferable option. You may either hire an attorney to negotiate for you, or you and your former partner can choose to speak amongst yourselves to establish custody and visitation. Once negotiations are complete and all issues have been discussed, you can then seek advice from your legal attorney for the written settlement agreement.

Mediation

This falls somewhere between Informal Negotiation and Family Court in terms of formality and time length. It is often the most effective means of establishing a custody agreement.

You, your former spouse, your attorneys and a mediator (in the form of a neutral party) will sit down together. Establish the issues to be resolved and draw up an agenda.

Discussions will then begin, and the mediator will be present to resolve any disputes that may come up. This will proceed until both sides can agree on the settlement terms. If you can manage to find a middle ground, you can both settle with this method. You will have the advantage of finalizing arrangements as quickly and painlessly as possible. Both parties may save money by avoiding the courtroom.

Some states require parents to try to establish custody arrangements via this method before heading to court.

Finalizing Custody Outside The Courtroom

Whether you settle the terms of custody and visitation through Informal Negotiation or Mediation, you will come to a written agreement. This will be shown to a judge who may call an informal court hearing. The judge will ask some basic questions to ensure that you both understand and accept the terms written in the settlement.

Assuming that it was drawn up fairly, the judge will approve the agreement. From then on, the agreement is legally binding. Both parties must adhere to this agreement.

Family Court

In some cases, circumstances could prevent an out-of-court settlement. A family court may need to look at the best interests of the child in order to make a custody decision. What is in a child’s best interests may depend on several aspects, including the child’s parental preference, evidence of parental abuse, and expected parental living situation.

This is often seen as a last resort as it is generally more costly and time-consuming for both parties.

If you are going through a separation and need to make arrangements for the care of your children. Regardless of which route you choose to take, it is important to seek legal advice before going ahead with any negotiations.

Davis and Davis, PC. is the leading Boston, Massachusetts Family Law Firm. For a free case consultation, please call (978) 228-2262.

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