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  • Writer's pictureSummers Family Law

Hard-Won Lessons from a High-Conflict Divorce Case

As a divorce attorney practicing in Massachusetts for many years, I've seen my fair share of high-conflict cases. But a recent Appeals Court decision drove home just how critical it is for divorcing parents to put their children's interests first - no matter how contentious the split.


The case (Turek v. Wallace) involved a couple locked in a bitter custody dispute over their two minor kids. The mother, who had been the primary caretaker during the marriage, sought joint legal and physical custody. The father asked for sole custody.

Ultimately, the Probate and Family Court judge awarded the father full legal and physical custody based on findings that:


  • The parents' communication was "fraught with accusation and insult"

  • They had an "inability to negotiate" important decisions about the children

  • The mother tended to "lash out" in stressful situations without considering the impact on the kids

  • There was a risk the mother would marginalize the father's role if she had primary custody


On appeal, the mother claimed bias by the judge. But the Appeals Court found ample evidence supporting the lower court's well-reasoned decision in the children's best interests.


As this case underscores, when divorcing parents put their own conflicts ahead of co-parenting, it's the children who can suffer most. Conversely, courts will look favorably on the parent better able to insulate the children from parental discord.


So for anyone entering divorce proceedings in Massachusetts involving child custody, some key takeaways:


  1. Be prepared to put your children's emotional well-being above your own animosity toward your soon-to-be ex.

  2. Demonstrate a willingness and ability to foster a healthy relationship between your kids and your co-parent.

  3. If joint legal custody is untenable due to a severely damaged co-parenting relationship, be realistic about the likelihood of being awarded primary physical custody.

  4. Retain an experienced Massachusetts divorce attorney to vigorously advocate for your parental rights and your children's interests.

While I never want a divorce for any of my clients, I know they are sometimes inevitable. When children are involved, minimizing conflict and keeping their well-being the top priority gives divorcing parents the best chance of a healthy outcome.


Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

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