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Understanding what child custody means before negotiations begin

Massachusetts parents who face divorce usually want to shield their children from it as much as possible. The problem is that there is no way to do so completely. What parents can do is negotiate the best child custody agreement possible that helps the children transition into their new lifestyle.

In order to ensure that the negotiations go well, it may help to first understand some of the lingo associated with child custody. For instance, the parties will discuss two different types of custody -- physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody obviously deals with whom the children will live. Legal custody deals with which parent will make major life decisions for the children. These choices often include matters regarding education, health care and religion, among other things.

Sole physical custody often means that one parent will have the children the majority of the time while the other has visitation, and sole legal custody means that only one parent makes those major life decisions. Joint physical custody means that the parents will split their time with the children as close to equally as possible, but one parent may end up with more time than the other. Joint legal custody means that the parents need to collaborate on parental decisions.

Of course, these simplistic definitions hardly encompass all of the details that go into a child custody agreement. Massachusetts parents may spend a significant amount of time creating a parenting plan and custody agreement that works best for their families. Doing so may require the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney who will work to protect a parent's rights while safeguarding the best interests of the children involved.

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