When couples in Quincy decide to end their marriage, custody of their children may not be as black-and-white of an issue as many expect. There are different types of custody, and a shared parenting bill recently passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives could affect how courts rule in these cases if it passes the Senate and is signed into law.
Generally speaking, in a divorce a court will assign one parent primary custody of the children. The other parent would then pay child support to that parent and would have a schedule for visitation with the children. Sometimes one parent will have primary physical custody while the two must jointly make decisions on the children's behalf. This arrangement is known as joint legal custody.
House Bill 3090 encourages a move away from the primary custody arrangement and towards a shared parenting model in divorce cases. The bill draws upon research demonstrating a number of benefits to children's well-being and health in shared parenting situations. These include better social and emotional adjustment, better mental and physical health, and a reduced likelihood of substance use.
Of course, sometimes shared parenting is not and should not be an option, such as a scenario involving domestic violence or drug or alcohol abuse. These scenarios would continue to be handled by the court according to what is in the best interests of the child. Other times, however, there may be no reason to impose a primary custody/visitation model when shared parenting would be in the family's best interests. We will continue to keep readers apprised of the progress of the bill, particularly if it should become law.