Before initiating a divorce in Massachusetts, parents should understand the state’s child custody process. Couples can decide on their own custody arrangement or ask the court to decide if they cannot agree.
Review the answers to the common child custody questions asked by divorcing parents.
What are the different types of custody?
Massachusetts has both physical and legal custody. Physical custody means where the child lives, while legal custody describes how the parents collaborate on important decisions involving the child. Parents can share both physical and legal custody. When one parent has sole physical custody, the other will have generous visitation except in extenuating circumstances that could cause the child harm.
How does the court decide custody?
Parents who are divorcing should come to their Massachusetts divorce hearing with a child custody plan. They can bring a collaborative plan or each parent can bring his or her own plan. In either case, the judge will review the plans with the child’s best interests in mind. The court strives to protect the child’s well-being while allowing a strong relationship with both parents, as long as neither has a history of domestic violence or child neglect.
What is a parenting plan?
This document describes how parents who divorce will continue to parent together. Ideally, the plan includes an exact custody schedule with details about transportation so parents can share time as agreed without conflict. Sometimes, the parenting plan simply provides for reasonable visitation without specifying a schedule.
Even as spouses end their marriage, they can work together to set the stage for a co-parenting relationship that maintains their child’s health and happiness.