Through the collective work of a Massachusetts Task Force of judges, lawyers, probation officers and mental health professionals, a Model Parenting Plan has been created combining the latest research on the needs of children with the experience of professionals who have worked extensively with children and families going through divorce and separation.
Massachusetts fathers are spending more time caring for their children than they did a half-century ago. Still, most (63%) say they spend too little time with their kids and a much smaller share (36%) say they spend the right amount of time with them, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August and September 2017.
The share of U.S. children living with an unmarried parent has more than doubled since 1968, jumping from 13% to 32% in 2017. That trend has been accompanied by a drop in the share of children living with two married parents, down from 85% in 1968 to 65%. Some 3% of children are not living with any parents, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Divorcing in Massachusetts may not result in the outcome many would hope for. If you're divorcing, most likely you would rather not be around your ex any more than necessary; yet, because children are shared with an ex, the door must remain open for communication and interaction to meet the children's needs. As much as we might wish to completely close the door on the past, we simply can't in these circumstances.
Finding the right arrangement for sharing custody with your former spouse isn't always easy in Massachusetts. When work schedules change, you or your spouse moves to a new location, or your child's after-school activities change, you may need to renegotiate how your time with your child is shared. While Massachusetts courts consider applications to modify custody, these applications are not easily granted.
Parents going through a divorce in Massachusetts have numerous concerns regarding how their children will be affected by the divorce. Each parent may fear that the other parent will be a bad influence when it comes to the children, and want to limit the type of activities the parent can engage in when the parent is caring for the children. This is how the idea of a morality clause comes up in the context of a divorce.
One of the most frequent concerns divorced Massachusetts parents express in custody disputes is that when their child is supposed to spend time with the other parent, the child cries or clings or sometimes "begs" not to be made to go. The parent generally interprets the child's behavior to mean that the child hates to spend time with the other parent. Sometimes they interpret the behavior to mean the other parent is abusive, or at least incompetent, as a parent. In fact, there are many possible reasons why children resist going from one parent to the other. 1. The children may really not want to spend time with the other parent, sometimes for good reason. But, this is actually quite rare. 2. The children may want to spend time with the other parent but not want to leave the parent they're with. It is common for human beings to simultaneously desire two, mutually exclusive results. We often wish we could eat our cake and have it too. Children are no different. In fact, most children really want to be with both parents and not to leave either. Their favorite fantasy is that their parents would get back together. 3. The children may be sensing non-verbal cues from the parent they are leaving that she or he is sad when the children leave. The children maybe reflecting the parent's feelings, not expressing their own. 4. The children may believe it pleases the parent for them to be sad about leaving. The children may be telling the parent what they think the parent wants to hear. 5. The children may simply find changing from one parent's home to the other uncomfortable. This is usually a temporary upset. Some children welcome change. Others have a more difficult time with it. Parents ought not jump to conclusions when a child resists parenting time. One suggestion is that these parents choose a counselor to help them (the children and the parents) sort out what is really troubling them. Just as important as figuring out the children's true concerns is finding solutions to the problem. The first solution many parents propose is to stop parenting time. That is almost never the best answer, and the counselor can also help the parents devise ways for the children to comfortably spend time in both homes. Often it is the parents who need to learn new skills such as how to give their children sincere permission to feel and express love for both parents.