Massachusetts marriages end for a variety of reasons including but not limited to finances, work and stress.
No matter the reason for the legal dissolution of a marriage, the ensuing divorce proceedings can range from amicable to hostile. A number of circumstances may add additional stress to the divorce process. Particularly, marriages that end due to infidelity. This situation can result in increased pressure and lead to exponential duress if there are children involved.
If you’re concerned that infidelity during your marriage or a new partner acquired during a separation might impact a child custody agreement, we’re here to help.
Like many things regarding family law, cases are fact-specific. In Massachusetts, instances of infidelity do not directly impact the division of the marital estate nor does infidelity by itself indicate whether or not an individual is deemed to be a fit parent. When considering the conduct of a spouse during the marriage, the court generally gives little, if any, weight to the infidelity issue. While the infidelity may be painful for an ex-spouse to accept, legally, it has little bearing on a parent’s ability to parent.
Shared legal custody is presumed under Massachusetts law by the courts unless there is evidence of abuse by one party or a total inability of the parties to communicate. However, if a parent’s infidelity is found to impact the best interests of the child negatively, it can influence the outcome of that parent’s visitation and custody. More commonly, some ex-spouses will insist on specific parameters regarding a new partner and the children. For example, an ex-spouse may request an agreement be made before introducing a new partner to the children. Family therapy and/or therapy solely for the child is also common to ensure that children understand the situation and are comfortable with it.
Overall, the most significant impact infidelity can have on a divorce is in the settlement process. The majority of divorces are settled outside of court instead of going to trial. Infidelity can be emotional for both parties involved and guilt or anger often prolongs negotiations making the process of divorce very difficult.
The decision to divorce isn’t easy, and when children are involved, the stakes are even higher. Many factors come into play regarding child custody agreements. If you need help navigating the legalities of divorce and child custody in Massachusetts, speak with our knowledgeable attorneys today.