MassachusettsChild Visitation Laws
Massachusetts Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
What is child visitation?In the context of a child custody case, visitation is defined as the rights for a non-custodial parent to see their child, or as temporary custody that's been granted for a period of time to an otherwise non-custodial parent or relative.
In general, courts in Massachusetts assume that it is beneficial for both biological parents of a child to have shared custody or visitation, unless it is shown to be against the child's best interests. A biological parent who is denied custody may be awarded visitation rights to provide for a relationship between the parent and child.
Visitation by grandparents, family members, or other third-parties is less clear cut in Massachusetts, and nationwide. While there are state guidelines regarding third-party visitation in certain situations, these laws are frequently challenged.
Above all else, courts in Massachusetts strive to make custody and visitation decisions that are "in the best interests of the child". The court handling each individual visitation case has significant flexibility in determining what arrangement is in the child's best interests. You can read about Massachusetts' visitation guildelines on this page.
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What Factors are Considered in Visitation Rights?
A biological parent of a minor child may request visitation rights as part of an open divorce, parentage or custody case. A parent seeking visitation may also file a petition for visitation if none of these circumstances apply.
The court will decide a request for visitation based on whether granting a parent visitation would be in the "best interests of the child."
What is considered in a child's "best interests" include: the health and well-being of the child; parental and child preferences as to visitation; the age of the child and the prospects that each parent will cooperate with a visitation arrangement.
Under Massachusetts law, paternal grandparents may petition for visitation rights with their grandchildren if paternity has been established; however maternal grandparents are not precluded from petitioning for visitation rights at any time. Just as in any other visitation case a determination of a grandparent's visitation rights depends on whether the arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
In the state of Massachusetts, there are a number of laws regarding child visitation regarding visitation for third-parties other than the biological parents of the child. While state laws regarding third-party visitation have been frequently been challenged in courts, they are a good indication of Massachusetts' positions regarding non-parental visitation rights.
Visitation Rights Of Grandparents In Massachusetts:
Massachusetts has special statutes regarding the child visitiation rights of grandparents under different circumstances. Under state law, the grandparents of children may obtain visitation while the parents are alive, regardless of the parent's marital status.
Regardless of state presumptions regarding grandparent's visitation rights under specific circumstances, a Massachusetts court may allow or prevent visitation rights in any situation based on the best interests of the child.
Visitation Rights Of Other Parties In Massachusetts:
Are step-parents granted visitation rights in the state of Massachusetts?
Generally it is an uphill battle for step-parents seeking visitation rights for a step-child, especially if the biological parents of the child are alive and are opposed to the visitation.
The state of Massachusetts does not have any laws that grant child visitation rights to step-parents, which may make applying for visitation significantly harder. In all cases, third-party visitation rights are more likely to be granted by the court if they are deemed to be in the best interests of the child.
Can other interested parties or relatives be granted visitation rights to a child in Massachusetts?
Under state of Massachusetts law, it may be possible for other individuals to be granted visitation rights by the court. This might include relatives other than the child'a parents, previous caregivers, etc.
Can parents be granted visitation rights after termination of parental rights or adoption in Massachusetts?
In the state of Massachusetts it may not be possible to be granted visitation rights after losing parental rights or giving up a child for adoption. This is the case with both biological parents and previous guardians.