What is custody?

In Massachusetts, custody cases are put into one of two categories; physical custody and legal custody.

  • Physical custody: This centers around where the child spends their time. Typically, a schedule is devised to determine when a child spends time with each parent.
  • Legal custody: This revolves around the health, welfare, and education of a child.  Decisions of this nature include school, medical, and religion resolutions, along with any other issues deemed in the best interest of a child.

Who can file for custody in Massachusetts?

Any parent or guardian can file a case for child custody in Massachusetts provided the child has resided in state for at least six months.  In special circumstances, filing before the six-month period is allowed.

My spouse/girlfriend/ex-spouse won’t let me see my child, what should I do?

The majority of judges believe in the importance for a child to have relationships with both parents.  If a parent is withholding visitation rights of a child from the other parent, an immediate filing of a Complaint and Motion for Temporary Visitation is necessary.

My spouse/boyfriend/ex-spouse won’t pay child support, can I withhold visitation?

No. The two issues of child support and visitation are unrelated.  You can, however, file a Complaint and Motion for Temporary Support.  Massachusetts courts expect both parents to financially support a child.

How is child support calculated?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts uses Child Support Guidelines to calculate child support.  A Complaint for Modification can be filed if the child support you are receiving or paying does not match the state’s guidelines.

Child Support Guild lines:  https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2017/11/20/cjd304-worksheet-child-support-guidelines-final.pdf

What can I do if my spouse/boyfriend/ex-spouse has been ordered to pay child support but won’t pay?

One of the most valuable tools available to get a parent to comply with a prior child support order is a Complaint for Contempt.  When filed, the court will order the parent in arrears to bring the child support current immediately.  Additionally, the filing will allow you to be reimbursed for any incurred attorney’s fees.

Can I have sole physical custody of my child?

Sole physical custody of a child is often a highly contested issue revolving around the child’s schedule.  A parent can have primary physical custody if the child spends over half of their time with that parent.  It is possible to have sole physical custody but joint legal custody of a child so that both parents are able to make decisions on behalf of the child’s well-being.  Ultimately, the Courts of Massachusetts believe that both parents should have meaningful relationships with their children.

What should I do if I want sole legal custody of my child?

Judges are often reluctant to order sole legal custody.  It is the Massachusetts Courts’ belief that both parents should be and can be involved in decisions regarding the child’s well-being.  A proper strategy can be constructed with your attorney should you feel the other parent incapable of making decisions for the benefit of the child.

Can we share physical custody of our child?

Absolutely.  The best case scenario for a child caught in custodial proceedings is for equal custody.  Parents should take into account the logistics surrounding physical custody.  Topics to consider may include shared driving responsibilities, no-school days, holidays, sick days, etc.

What happens when there has been a major change in our lives since the last court order?

When a significant change in circumstances arises regarding the welfare of children, the issues are subject to review by the court.  A Complaint for Modification can be filed to address the child’s needs and the issues at hand.

Do I have to have an attorney in my custody case?

No, you do not have to have an attorney involved in your child custody case.  However, it is strongly recommended to reach out to an attorney for legal advice.  A competent lawyer can help you understand every aspect of the case so you and your child receive the best possible outcome for your case.  Custody cases create a long-lasting impact on every party involved; it’s best to seek guidance to ensure the child’s best interests are covered.