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Reaching a parenting agreement

A divorce in Massachusetts can be stressful, but when parents can work together, a child's best interests may be met with minimal court time. There are many out-of-court approaches to consider in reaching a parenting agreement. A judge may still be required to review the final plan to evaluate whether a child's best interests have been considered, but legal fees and stress can be minimized by handling the negotiation of the agreement in a more informal setting.

One of the major areas to be addressed in a parenting agreement is that of custody and visitation. Parents may deal with issues such as where the child will live. Additionally, they should handle decisions about legal custody, which is the responsibility for major decisions related to a child's welfare. In some cases, these responsibilities may be shared. In other cases, decision-making may be assigned to one parent. Visitation schedules are also typically included in a parenting plan. Visits with grandparents and other extended family members might also be included to ensure that a child is able to maintain other important relationships.

Alternative dispute resolution options like mediation can often allow differences to be worked out before the final court hearing on the parenting plan. Legal assistance during this process can be important, however, to ensure that all obligations are clearly understood. In some cases, parents may include factors such as college costs in an agreement. However, later financial changes might lead to difficulties in complying with this provision.

A parent who has met with changes in circumstance that affect their ability to comply fully with a parenting agreement might seek a modification. A lawyer might help by coordinating mediation so that both parties can revisit the plan and make adjustments. If necessary, legal intervention by a judge might be important if there is a lack of cooperation by the other parent.

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