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Child Custody

Child CustodyNew Hampshire and Massachusetts laws on ‘custody’ both focus on the importance of having both parents involved in their children’s lives, so long as it is in their best interests.

While New Hampshire and Massachusetts laws are similar, there is a difference in terminology used by the different states.  New Hampshire does not use the term “custody”.  Rather, New Hampshire identifies the parents “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting schedule” whereas Massachusetts uses the terms “legal custody” and “physical custody” to identify decision making and the residential schedule.  This article utilizes the word ‘custody’ interchangeably but Smith-Weiss Shepard & Kanakis, P.C. urges the reader to keep this distinction in mind as applicable to your state.

Part of developing a parenting plan involves agreements about decision making responsibility/legal custody and residential responsibility of the parents.  There are notable differences between the two:

Decision Making Responsibility: The responsibility to make legal decisions about matters affecting the child such as education, healthcare, and religion.  Legal custody also includes the right to access school and medical records. 

Residential Responsibility: Where and with whom the child will live.

Co-parenting is one of the main focuses of child custody cases, or parenting plans, and determining when each parent will have time with their child or children.  Custody agreements are often aided by attorneys through mediation, or four-way settlement meetings, and the court encourages each party to be represented in these proceedings.  When parents cannot agree between themselves when they will each have time with their children, the court becomes involved and a custody hearing will be held.  

Custody and decision-making in New Hampshire and Massachusetts will be guided by the best interests of the child.  In determining what is in the child’s best interest, the court will consider any factors the court deems relevant, which include at a minimum the following:

  • The relationship of the child with each parent and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance.
  • The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment.
  • The child’s developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet them, both in the present and in the future.
  • The quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s school and community and the potential effect of any change.
  • The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing physical, written, and telephonic contact with the other parent.
  • The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child.
  • The ability of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other, and make joint decisions concerning the child.

Smith-Weiss Shepard & Kanakis, P.C. have seasoned attorneys who will evaluate these factors for you and advocate for a custody agreement best suited for you and your family.