Series Part II – Physical custody/Residential responsibility
Often people come to me and want “sole custody” of their child. I wrote last week about sole legal custody (MA) and decision making (NH). This article will continue that series discussing physical custody (MA) and residential responsibility (NH).
Physical Custody in MA:
In Massachusetts, the Court will award “physical” custody, which refers to where the child lives to one parent (“sole custody”) with visitation to the other parent or to both parents equally (“joint physical custody”). More and more, the Court, and the parties, are finding a joint physical custody arrangement possible and even when both parties don’t agree that it is the best scenario, the Court may order such an arrangement. So, how does this affect you?
Mary and Mike have been married for ten years and have two children. Mary gets the kids ready for school in the AM and drops them off. Mike picks them up at the end of the day and feeds them dinner. The two help the kids equally with end of the night, homework and bedtime. When they divorce, Mary wants to have sole custody of the kids. Mike doesn’t think that is fair or appropriate. He wants them to share joint physical custody of the kids (after all, this is what has really been going on in their home for years even as a married couple). In this situation, over Mary’s objection, the Court may award joint (physical) custody of the children to Mike.
Residential Responsibility in NH:
Though most people use the term “custody,” “joint custody” or “sole custody,” when we talk about where the children live, the New Hampshire Court uses the terms “residential responsibility” and “parenting time” to describe the living arrangements of the children.
In my experience, the Courts in NH are more in favor of joint parenting. Practically speaking, I think the Court sees it this way: with joint parenting each parent has to do half the work (discipline, homework, activities, etc.) and gets to have half of the fun (down time, weekends, parties, etc.). Isn’t that much more favorable to both of the parties – and the children – than one parenting doing all of the week during the week and the other parent getting to have all of the “fun time?”
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