How Does Child Custody Work in Massachusetts?

One of the most contested issues in all divorce is child custody. Generally, both parents feel they are entitled to equal, if not more, parenting time, though the courts may not necessarily see eye-to-eye with the child’s parents. If you are getting a divorce and are concerned about the potential outcome of your child custody terms, here are some of the questions you may have:

What is physical custody?

When you get a divorce and have children with your former spouse, the courts will determine which parent gets physical custody over your child or children. Physical custody essentially refers to where the child resides. Generally, most former spouses will work out some sort of a shared physical custody agreement, which means the parents will work together to help mitigate the impact of their divorce on their children’s lives. However, this requires parents to cooperate and work with one another, and in situations where this is impossible, the courts must do their part to ensure the best interests of their child are addressed. This may result in one parent being awarded sole legal custody of the child, either due to a danger posed by one parent or the overall hardship of living arrangements, usually following a relocation.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make parental decisions for his or her child, such as academic issues, health care, religion, and more. Generally, regardless of which parent has physical custody over a child, both parents will be awarded legal custody of the child. However, sometimes, if a parent has a criminal record, a history of substance abuse, or is in some way considered unfit to be a parent and poses a danger to their child, they may be denied legal custody entirely. Sometimes these determinations are wrong, however, and if you are a parent who wrongly has to fight for legal custody, you should contact an experienced attorney who will help fight for your parental rights.

What will the court consider when deciding upon child custody terms?

The courts will consider many factors when making these determinations, including, though not limited to, the stability of both households, the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs, any history of criminal activities or substance abuse, who had done more physical parenting before the divorce, each parent’s ability to sustain their child’s living arrangement and lifestyle, and more. 

Contact our compassionate Massachusetts firm

If you require compassionate and knowledgeable legal guidance for a matter of divorce, family or estate law, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Cynthia L. Hanley today. We recognize the impact a divorce can have on the lives of you or your children, which is why our firm proudly serves clients in Mansfield, Massachusetts and throughout Bristol County.