Child Custody

Child SupportThere are different types of custody arrangements which are appropriate in different situations. The fundamental aspects of custody are legal custody and physical custody which can be either sole, shared, or a combination. Legal Custody is the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child’s welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development. Physical Custody is a question of where the child primarily lives.

These custody arrangements are defined by law and are outlined below.
Sole legal custody

Sole legal custody means that ONE parent, the “custodial parent” has the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.
Shared legal custody

Shared legal custody means continued mutual responsibility and involvement by both parents in major decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including matters of education, medical care, and emotional, moral and religious development.
Shared physical custody

Shared physical custody means that a child has periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent, and that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way that assures the child frequent and continued contact with both parents.
Sole physical custody

Sole physical custody means that a child resides with and is under the supervision of one parent, subject to reasonable visitation by the other parent, unless the court decides that such visitation would not be in the best interest of the child.

In Massachusetts, the courts base the decision of child custody on what is in the “best interest of the child.” While the best interest of the child standard sounds general, it is nonetheless a child-centered standard, as it requires courts to focus on the child’s needs, and not the parent’s needs. The law requires courts to make their custody decisions by awarding custody to the parent whom it decides can best meet the child’s needs. Usually courts tend to preserve the child’s current placement with a the child’s primary caregiver in order for he/she to have a child’s successful upbringing. However, the law says that in making an order or judgment concerning the custody of children, “the rights of the parents shall, in the absence of misconduct, be held to be equal, and the happiness and welfare of the children shall determine their custody. When considering the happiness and welfare of the child, the court shall consider whether or not the child’s present or past living conditions adversely affect his physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.”

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