Friday, August 19, 2011

Custody Reform: What is it?

If you live in Massachusetts, by now you've probably heard about Alimony Reform. Both the House and Senate have passed the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 and it now awaits the approval of the House again (for some language changes made by the Senate). Although, the majority of people in Massachusetts are just now learning about this reform, it has actually been in the works for at least 10 years. In various forms there have been numerous attempts to update the alimony laws in Massachusetts, culminating with a recent Legislative Task Force which authored and approved the current bill.

The same type of reform may be on the horizon for the Massachusetts custody statute.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a public hearing on May 18, 2011 where public testimony was given primarily on Alimony Reform and a pending human trafficking bill. But there were also a few people (mostly fathers) who were there to present testimony in support of a few different bills that would make changes to how custody is determined in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. After further review there are currently six pending bills which would make significant changes in this area, and six more that would make minor tweaks or additions to the current custody statute.

We have provided links to the current custody statute and each of the proposed bills, below. Over the next two weeks we will be posting a series of blogs evaluating the pros and cons of each of these proposals and comparing them to the current statute. We believe that, similar to alimony reform, there are flaws in the current law that could be improved with some updating. However, we also recognize that some of these proposals go too far.

We will provide insight to how these proposals might work in certain instances and fail in others and we hope that our analysis over the course of these posts will provide a benefit from our experience as family law practitioners.

Current Statute: M.G.L. 208 s 31 - Custody of children; shared custody plans

S.659 – Legislation to strengthen family relationships through responsible shared parenting;

S.847 – Legislation to share custody of minor children of divorced or separated parents;

H.1306 – Legislation relative to shared parenting in cases of divorce;

H.1330 – Legislation relative to the determination of the legal custody of children in court cases;

H.2244 – Legislation relative to the rights of parents in child custody proceedings;

H.2684 – Legislation relative to supporting children and parental custody;

H.2851 – Legislation relative to mediation of divorce cases involving children;

H.1305 – Legislation relative to child care involvement of non-custodial parents;

S.691– Legislation relative to parental choice of terminology in certain domestic relations matters;

H.2258– Legislation relative to parental choice in child custody agreements;

H.3289 – Legislation relative to the modification of custody orders involving parents called to active military service;

H.3289 – Legislation to prohibit certain activities within the home until a divorce is final and financial and custody issues are resolved.

To read more about Shared Parenting in Massachusetts, check out the following pages:

Parenting Plan Worksheet - Use this worksheet to help compare potential or proposed Parenting Plans on a user-friendly calendar.

Child Custody Mediation
Collaborative Child Custody Resolution
Child Custody Litigation

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