Massachusetts Child Custody and Visitation Laws

Divorce is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements for children. In Massachusetts, the top priority of the courts is to determine arrangements that are “in the best interests of the child”, but that may not always be as straightforward as it seems. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead, the assistance of an experienced family law attorney/mediator will help.

Massachusetts recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody and sole physical custody. When a couple files for divorce, the court will issue temporary orders regarding custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. During what can be contentious times, differing ideas about many aspects concerning the child including schooling and or religious upbringing of children may surface. Having an experienced family law attorney/mediator can make sure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law.

In cases where temporary shared legal custody may not be best for the child, like in cases of abuse or neglect, the court has to consider “all relevant facts”. Lawyers can advocate for the child by presenting legal proof of past instances or patterns of abuse.

When it comes to visitation, most parents will need to establish a schedule. Here too an attorney/mediator can help. It is in everyone’s best interests to outline a parenting plan as it can clearly define where the child will be on which days and which times. It often also details who is responsible for transportation to and from visitation events. Here too, a mediator can help ensure the schedule is fair and expectations are reasonable for both parties.

In some instances, the court approve a stipulation of “reasonable visitation” where arrangements remain flexible and parents work them out among themselves. This requires an extraordinary amount of amicability and communication between parents though. If things go wrong, or one parent fails to hold up their end of the bargain, the lack of a fixed schedule to refer to can be more than frustrating.

Don’t leave matters of child custody and visitation to chance in Massachusetts. Hire a knowledgeable family law attorney/mediator to make sure your rights and responsibilities are clearly defined and protected.