FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-25
Divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences of a person’s life, and when children are involved the process often becomes even more difficult. For parents considering divorce in Massachusetts, understanding the legal aspects of child custody decisions and how they are made may help to ease the strain.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements
Child custody comes in two distinct forms: physical and legal. Physical custody involves living with the child, providing supervision and tending to his or her day-to-day needs. Legal custody, on the other hand, involves making important decisions about the child’s life and wellbeing, such as where he or she will go to school and what type of health care he or she will receive.
Both forms of custody may be shared by both parents or held only by one. The different types of child custody may be combined in various ways to create a child custody arrangement that responds to a family’s specific circumstances. For instance, a Massachusetts child custody arrangement may grant:
- Sole legal and physical custody to one parent
- Shared legal and physical custody to both parents
- A combination of shared and joint physical and legal custody
How Child Custody Is Decided
In some cases, parents may negotiate outside of court to create a child custody agreement on their own terms, often with help from their attorneys. If parents do not come to an agreement outside of court, a judge will grant custody to either or both parents according to the best interests of the child.
To determine the best interest of the child, the court will consider any relevant factors, including but not limited to:
- The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s health and safety
- Each parent’s history of providing for the child’s wellbeing
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Drug or alcohol abuse by either parent
- Evidence of past or present abuse toward the child or the other parent
If you are going through a divorce in Massachusetts and have questions about your parental rights or would like help resolving a child custody dispute, contact an experienced family law attorney.