Child Custody in Massachusetts


Massachusetts has adopted the term “parenting time” as the proper legal terminology for a parent to spend time with a child. The terms “physical custody,” “legal custody,” and “visitation,” are still used when describing different parenting situations. Typically parents create a parenting plan/schedule and incorporate it into a Stipulation of the Parties. It is recommended that a family law attorney review your plan and proposed agreement prior to making it an order of the Court.

Difference between physical and legal custody:

Briefly, physical custody is where the children will physically live. On the other hand, legal custody is a term that refers to who will make important decisions in the child’s life, such as decisions about the child’s education, medical treatment and religious upbringing. Joint or shared physical custody would be an arrangement where a child lives part of the time with one parent, and the rest of the time with another. Joint legal custody means that the parents jointly make major decisions on the child’s behalf, despite separation.

Factors considered when a Court orders custody:

1. What is best for the child (Best interests of the child standard);
2. The ability of the parents to communicate with each other;
3. Each parent’s relationship to the child; and
4. Where each of the parents lives, and the housing conditions that they live in.
(Each case is typically fact-specific so there may be numerous other factors beyond these examples)

How do you get Court -Ordered Parenting time or Visitation?

In order to obtain any court order, you need to start a legal action with a Complaint.

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