Co-parenting is undoubtedly one of the most daunting challenges facing parents who are newly separated or divorced. And there also are several misconceptions about child custody and co-parenting that we’d like to help put to rest.
One of the biggest misconceptions is the continuing belief that judges automatically grant mothers full or primary custody of their children, based on the outdated notion that children are better off with their mothers.
That’s simply not the case anymore. Courts now base custody decisions on what’s in the best interest of the children. Most family court judges in Massachusetts acknowledge the important role fathers play in the lives of their children, including infants and toddlers. So they’re more willing to consider shared custody arrangements, or even award sole or primary custody to the father, if that is what is in the best interest of their children.
Another misconception is that one parent or the other will be the custodial parent and the other parent will be granted limited visitation — usually every other weekend and a visit or two during the week.
Today, most divorces with children involved include parenting plans that define each parent’s role with regards to their children, including parenting time, child support, college costs, and much more. Many parenting plans include shared custody, which can have children spending equal amounts of time with both parents or any other schedule that the court determines to be in the child’s best interest.
Some people believe that the parent with whom the child lives gets to make all of the important decisions in that child’s life. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Many parenting plans provide one parent with primary custody of the child, but state that both parents share legal custody — meaning each parent has an equal say in important decisions about their child, including medical care, religious upbringing, education, and so forth. Joint legal custody also means that both parents have the right to all school, medical, dental, and other records pertaining to their children.
Many believe that parents can’t get along with one another after a divorce. The best way to achieve co-parenting success is to set aside your feelings about your child’s other parent and focus on the business of raising your children together.
You don’t have to like your ex, but you should try to establish a respectful co-parenting relationship that puts the needs of your children first. After all, your role as husband and wife may end, but your role as mom and dad lasts forever.
Attorney Andy P. Miller is the Managing Attorney of Pollack Law Group, P.C. A father himself, he focuses on children and their best interests by helping guide parents through the divorce process. Having practiced in nearly every county in Massachusetts, he has a wide understanding of the various courts in Massachusetts and experience before many judges.
Remembering Attorney, Divorce and Co-Parenting Columnist Irwin Pollack
By Melissa Shaw
I’m sad to report that Atty. Irwin Pollack, our monthly Divorce and Co-Parenting columnist, passed away in January.
For nearly two years, Irwin shared his expert advice with our readers monthly, and regardless of the specific topic, his message always centered around one tenet: Put your children first.
Irwin approached me in spring 2015 asking if we’d like to publish a monthly column on co-parenting; I couldn’t agree fast enough. Divorce affects a large percentage of families, and expert advice on co-parenting would not only assist thousands of our readers, but also inform and enlighten those who are not touched by it, an equally important goal in my opinion.
In the months following, Irwin wrote on a variety of topics related to divorce and co-parenting: vacations and travel, schooling, holiday gift giving, education, afterschool activities, scheduling, and much more.
Divorce is an area fraught with high emotion. Bring children into the equation, and feelings are magnified many times over; the opportunity for conflict is ever present. Yet Irwin, a divorced father himself, always promoted a positive message, one of compromise, consideration, communication, and putting the kids first. Was his advice always easy? No — the right thing to do sometimes isn’t, as we well know. Was it right? Yes.
I had the pleasure of being on Irwin’s popular radio show, “Talking About Divorce”, several times, and I always loved seeing him in person. His energy and enthusiasm was contagious, and he was so much fun to be around. I will miss him greatly. Our staff’s deepest condolences are extended to Irwin’s family, colleagues, and his listeners and readers across Massachusetts.
However, there is one good piece of news to report. Irwin’s Divorce and Co-Parenting column will continue in baystateparent, graciously adopted by his colleague, Atty. Andy P. Miller, whose first column appears above. We’re grateful for Andy’s columns and proud to continue publishing information and advice that will aid divorced and co-parenting families.