Child Custody Laws in Massachusetts: Legal Custody versus Physical Custody

Part one of our multi-part blog series on child custody laws in Massachusetts.

It is important for parents to understand child custody laws when making the decision to litigate issues relating to children. Parents with an understanding of these laws and how a Massachusetts court may handle their particular child custody dispute can often resolve their issues without need for expensive litigation.

Legal and physical custody is defined in Massachusetts General Laws c. 208 § 31 as follows:

  • “Sole legal custody” – one parent shall have 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” – 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.
  • “Sole physical custody” – a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to reasonable visitation by the other parent, unless the court determines that such visitation would not be in the best interest of the child.
  • “Shared physical custody” – a child shall have periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent; provided, however, that physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure a child frequent and continued contact with both parents.

When a Massachusetts court decides child custody, each parent’s rights are viewed as equal in the absence of misconduct, and the court will make the custody determination based on the best interest of the children. There are many factors to be considered by a court in determining child custody, but generally, it all boils down to what is in the best interest of the children.

It is important that you speak with an experienced Massachusetts child custody attorney to learn more about your rights in child custody proceedings. If you have any questions regarding child custody matters, or believe that you or someone you know may be in need of a Massachusetts child custody attorney, our attorneys are happy to provide you with a free initial consultation to discuss your matter.

Please do not hesitate to contact us to see how Finn & Eaton, P.C. may be able to help you.

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