Child Custody and Visitation in Massachusetts

Similar to legal custody, Massachusetts law breaks physical custody into two categories, sole physical custody and shared physical custody.  For many going through a divorce or paternity case, physical custody is the most important issue.  Physical custody is the issue which determines where the child is and when.  The issue, like all issues in the case, will either be resolved by agreement or by the judge at trial. Either way, the parties must each develop a proposed physical custody plan, sometimes referred to as a parenting plan.

If the case does go to trial, the judge will review the proposals of each party and will either adopt one of the proposals or develop a third option, often taking from each of the two proposals.  Ultimately, either you will come to an agreement with the other parent or the court will make a determination and, regardless of how it happens, the determination should be based on the best interests of the child.  The natural issue then is that each parent tends to have a different, conflicting idea as to what is in the child’s best interest.

The debate between the parties and, if necessary, the testimony and evidence before the court, naturally tend to raise stress levels of each party. A parent’s feeling of what is best for a child is a very subjective thing. There may have been many instances of disagreement of what’s best for a child while the relationship was still intact. Now the debate goes on within the scope of what may be a contentious, emotional litigation.

One of the most difficult challenges for the professionals involved in a custody dispute is that the parties have an incredibly deeper understanding of the details of the parenting of the child then the professionals or the judge ever will. It is simply not possible for the professionals or the judge to have the same depth of understanding because of the short window of time they will be involved in your case. It is the lawyer’s job to boil down the facts to those the judge will consider in making his or her determination.  The best divorce lawyers focus clients on what’s most important day one of the representation, setting forth a litigation and general strategy on how to maximize the likelihood of obtaining an optimal result.

While there are clear facts relevant to a child custody determination, such as who has historically cared for the child, the work schedules of each parent, and whether there has been any abuse, neglect, or abandonment, families are really very unique.  Unless you are a lawyer practicing law in the area of divorce and family law, you likely not aware of all the relevant issues.  I would encourage you to take steps beyond Internet research and schedule a consultation with a competent divorce lawyer. Ideally, this step can be taken long before the divorce which need to be filed.  Sometimes that’s not possible, but speaking with an expert is always helpful, especially when it’s free.