Child Custody Arrangements in Massachusetts

In determining custody arrangements, chief concerns are the welfare and age of the child. 
Physical custody determines the child's residential living arrangements.  Legal custody refers to the rights each parent has with respect to medical, religious, educational and other needs of the children. In the past, younger children were thought to be better off in the care of a mother rather than a father. Now the court gives equal consideration to each parent.  The courts are more likely to weigh the request of each parent for custody equally if the fathers has participated actively in bringing up small children.  A child of approximately fourteen years of age may be considered by the court to have reached a sufficient age to make an intelligent choice, regarding with whom he or she prefers to live. While a child's preference is carefully considered by the judge, it is not binding upon the court.

The court may award joint legal custody to both parents but award physical custody to one parent. This means that both parents can make certain decisions regarding the children, but the child lives primarily in one home with that parent making the daily decisions regarding every day life. The parents must be able to get along and communicate well in order for there to be joint custody.

The ability of the parent to promote the best interests of the child in making an award of custody is one of the most important factors in a custody decision.  The court can change custody, according to the best interests of the children at any time until they reach the age of 18.

For professional advice in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service at (617) 654-0400
or 1-800-392-6164 (from outside the Boston area).

Helpful resources for resolving child custody issues:

What if we agree about custody and visitation?
If you and the other parent have already come to a fair agreement on the custody and visitation issue, you may want to write your own "stipulation" and consent order. A "stipulation" is a statement describing the agreement that you have reached. A consent order is a draft for the judge to sign if s/he agrees to accept your agreement. this means that the court can enforce the agreement in the future. 

If you choose to go this route, you and the other parent should be as specific as you can to avoid future conflicts. You should ask yourself, who has legal custody? Which holiday does the child spend with you? What time and where may the other parent pick the child up? What time should the child be returned home? What is the procedure to follow if either of you are running late and won't be there on time? How much notice should you be given if they are planning a vacation? How far away may the other spouse move? What you might think you can figure out as you go along could actually blow up into a full scale war later. The Stipulations should state everything that you have agreed upon. You should not rely on any oral promises. If you both agreed on it, write it down (no matter how trivial it may seem now). 

Technology offers some innovative and creative ways for parents separated from their children to connect.  "Virtual" visitation is coming to be recognized by the courts as a potentially important way to supplement in-person visits.

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MA Divorce & MSA Combo (best value) $89.00

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