The Importance of Child Custody in Massachusetts
Custody in Massachusetts is evolving from the words of sole physical custody and shared legal custody to the term parenting plan. The statute currently still says that it’s a shared legal custody arrangement and that is generally given in most cases unless one parent is unfit. What shared legal custody is that both parents have the right to make joint decisions concerning the child’s health, education and welfare. That doesn’t mean what jacket the child wears to schools that day. That’s the choice of the parent who is putting the child on the school bus that morning. We call them ‘life decisions’. That’s what’s involved in legal custody and generally, that’s shared unless there’s a reason for a parent to not have shared custody. There is such a thing called ‘legal custody’ and what that means is that a parent has the right to make those same decisions but they don’t have to get the consent of the other parent. So sometimes and 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. That’s basically what the statute says.
When people think of custody though, they think of physical custody and physical custody means with the child primarily resides so there can either be shared physical custody or sole physical custody. Sole physical custody is when it’s more of what used to be called a ‘traditional arrangement’ and that would be where for instance, a parent would visit every other weekend and maybe one or two nights during the week. As I said, it might be a good thing. They’re moving away from labelling people with those terms and what we’re calling it now is a parenting plan so that one parent doesn’t get labeled as the ‘visiting parent’ and the other parent getting labeled as ‘custodial parent’. But if you want to 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. It could be splitting the week. That’s totally dependent upon the parent’s schedules and primarily the child’s needs, the child’s age, how well the child is adjusting and then sometimes, it would just be, like I said, sole physical custody with one parent visiting but that’s just the concept we’re trending towards using the word ‘parenting plan’.
This informational blog post was provided by Cynthia Hanley, an experienced Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer.