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Divorce and Child Custody in Massachusetts

An attorney passing papers related to divorce and child custody in Massachusetts.

Learn more about divorce and child custody in Massachusetts from one of our Divorce Squad experts.

There are a few things to know about divorce and child custody in Massachusetts and today’s expert Justin Banks is here to offer his insight on some of our state’s specific issues. Let’s learn more from Attorney Banks.

In Massachusetts divorce and paternity matters, there are two different kinds of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make major life decisions for their child(ren) specifically, those concerning health, education, and religion. Physical custody refers to the arrangement through which each parent spends time with and parents their child(ren).

With regard to legal custody, it is typical in the Commonwealth for parents to have shared legal custody. Each parent has a bundle of rights relative to their ability to make decisions for their child(ren)’s wellbeing and development. To that end, one of the most important factors the court considers when determining legal custody of a minor child is the parents ability to communicate with one another for the benefit of their child(ren). In order for parents to share legal custody it is vital for them to be able to communicate with one another, as such communication is necessary for them to make joint decisions on the major issues in their child(ren)’s lives.

There is a presumption under the law that divorcing parents share legal custody of their child(ren) unless good cause is shown for a determination otherwise. In situations where a party is seeking sole legal custody of their child(ren), the court must first determine 1) the parents’ ability to communicate with one another for the benefit of their child(ren) and 2) what legal custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the child(ren). Ultimately any determination relative to the custody of a child/children hinges on the what the court determines to be in the child(ren)’s best interests.

With respect to physical custody, the most important factors that the court considers are continuity, stability, and what physical custody arrangement is in the child(ren)’s best interests. On their face, these determining factors seem simple, but in actuality they can be extremely complex. No two situations are the same and thus the factors must be examined through the lens of each specific situation. Often times parents will attempt to compare their situation to one of a friend or family member without realizing that even a small and seemingly insignificant change in the facts of a situation can make for a wholly different outcome.

When it comes to determining physical custody and the child(ren)’s best interests, an in-depth examination of the facts present in a given situation is necessary. Factors such as the age of the child(ren), distance between parents’ residences, historical parenting roles, the needs of the child(ren), and even at times the desires of the child(ren), must all be examined. There is no single determinative factor in physical custody situations. determinations. In fact, it is a confluence of factors, all reviewed through the prospective of what is in the child(ren)’s best interests and what will provide the child(ren) the best possible opportunity for continued growth and development, that will control.

In summation, any custody determination in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires a thorough and in-depth review of all the facts present, as well as a determination of what is in the child(ren)’s best interests moving forward after reviewing the presented facts.

If you have more questions about divorce and child custody in Massachusetts, contact Attorney Justin Banks today.