Massachusetts Massachusetts

Child Custody Law

Child Custody General Information - What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.

Child custody cases in Massachusetts can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:

  • Where the child lives (physical custody)
  • Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
  • How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged

This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Massachusetts court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.

Massachusetts Child Custody Law Summary

After a breakup or divorce in Massachusetts, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.

Some of the factors considered by Massachusetts in child custody cases include any history of domestic violence.

What Happens in Cases of Domestic Abuse? What is Considered in the Child's Best Interests?

If the court's finding evidence that a pattern or serious incident of abuse has occurred, the court will make a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to be placed in any form of sole or shared custody with the abusive parent.

An order relating to the custody shall not impede the ability of the parent to access to the academic, medical, hospital or other health records of the child, as they would have had if the order had not been entered.

Unless nondisclosure of the present or prior address of the child or a party is necessary to ensure the general safety or welfare of the child or party, the court may order that any part of such record pertaining to such address shall not be disclosed.

Provided, the court may also issue an order prohibiting the parent from imposing any restraint upon the personal liberty of the other parent.

Massachusetts Child Custody Factors - How Is Child Custody Decided In Massachusetts?

If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Massachusetts judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".

In the state of Massachusetts, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Massachusetts' custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.

Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Massachusetts?

Massachusetts does not have a defined list of factors for the court to consider when determing a custody order. This means that judges have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis when determining a custody arrangement between two parents.

Do judges in the state of Massachusetts favor joint custody?

Judges in Massachusetts are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.

Courts in Massachusetts do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Do Massachusetts courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?

It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.

Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, the childs wishes are not required to be considered when determining which parent wins custody.

Do Massachusetts courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?

Massachusetts has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.

Do the courts in the state of Massachusetts have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?

Massachusetts has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.

| State Law Official Text

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