Cynthia Hanley Explains Child Custody in Massachusetts

Cynthia Hanley Explains Child Custody in Massachusetts

Custody in Massachusetts is evolving from the words sole physical custody/shared physical custody and sole legal custody/shared legal custody to the term “parenting plan”. The statute currently still says that it’s a shared legal custody arrangement and is generally given in most cases unless one parent is unfit. Shared legal custody is having both parents with the right to make joint decisions concerning the child’s health, education and welfare. This doesn’t mean (for example) what jacket the child wears to school that day. That’s the choice of the parent who is putting the child on the school bus that morning.  It is what we call “life decisions”.  So sometimes,  it’s fairly rare, there would be sole legal custody over health, education and welfare decisions of the child. The other one is religious and moral upbringing and that’s basically what the statute says. When people think of custody, they think of physical custody, which means where the child primarily resides.  There can either be shared physical custody or sole physical custody.  Sole physical custody is more of what was called a “traditional arrangement” and that would be when (for example) a parent would visit every other weekend and maybe one or two nights during the week. They’re moving away from labeling people with those terms and we’re now calling it a “parenting plan” instead of one parent getting labeled as the “visiting parent” and the other being labeled as “custodial parent”. If you think of it conceptually, shared physical custody is when each party would spend time with the child on a 50:50 basis. That could be switching every other week, or splitting the week. That’s totally dependent upon the parents’ schedules and primarily the child’s needs, the child’s age, and how well the child is adjusting. Sometimes it could be just sole physical custody with one parent visiting, but that’s the concept we’re trending towards with using the word “parenting plan”.

This informational blog post was brought to you by Cynthia L. Hanley, an experienced Mansfield, Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer.