How Child Custody Is Determined Under Massachusetts Law

In Massachusetts, several factors are used to determine child custody between two parents seeking divorce or between unmarried couples who cannot come to custody terms following separation. Massachusetts law recognizes four different types of custody:

• Sole legal custody
• Shared legal custody
• Sole physical custody
• Shared physical custody

In the first and third statuses, only one parent has the right and responsibility regarding the child’s welfare, including education, medical care, and emotional, moral and religious development. Shared custody allows both parents to make decisions. Physical custody status goes one step further by determining whether children will live with only one or spend time living with both parents in addition to determining who will be responsible for their welfare.

Massachusetts courts offer court-connected alternative dispute resolution where an impartial third party works with both parents to resolve custody issues in an attempt to avoid litigation. Conciliation is another court-connected resolution process that Massachusetts couples can utilize in conjunction with their attorneys to resolve custody issues instead of through litigation.

Ultimately, however, custody status is based on the best interests of the child or children involved. Factors considered when awarding custody include emotional ties and relationship with each parent, income and educational levels, child-rearing skills, character and temperament of both the mother and father and motives for seeking custody among others. Other factors such as illness of one parent or whether the mother or father is unfit for custody due to problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, may also come into play.

If you have questions regarding a child custody matter in Massachusetts, we encourage your to call our office and speak with an experienced family law attorney.

An Intro to Filing for Divorce in Massachusetts

Many couples start out in marriage with great hopes and expectations, only to end up in a relationship that unfortunately does not work. There are many steps in the divorce process in Massachusetts and just as many avenues to take depending on your situation. Here is a brief introduction to filing for divorce in Massachusetts and some of what you may encounter.

  • A divorce can be categorized as “no-fault” or “fault.”
  • If both parties agree on the categorization, the divorce is called “uncontested.” If one of the two parties disagrees with it, though, it is then called “contested.”
  • A fault divorce can be more costly and drawn out than a no-fault one. This is because of the process required to prove the fault of the accused spouse.
  • There are seven categories of a fault divorce: adultery, impotency, desertion, cruel and abusive treatment, gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, a prison sentence of five years or longer, and non-support.
  • There are two categories of a no-fault divorce. They are “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage 1A,” and “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage 1B.”
  • 1A means that both spouses agree that neither are to blame for the end of the marriage, and they have reached an agreement regarding any alimony, asset distribution, child support, or custody arrangements. (AKA- Uncontested no-fault divorce)
  • 1B means that both spouses agree that neither are to blame for the end of the marriage, but they cannot reach an agreement on assets, custody arrangements, etc. (AKA- Contested no-fault divorce)
  • A 1A divorce is final 120 days from the date of judgement.
  • A 1B divorce is final 90 days after the hearing so long as a judgement is entered. (You will have a hearing for a 1B case because the accusing spouse must prove the fault of the other spouse.)

These are just a few of the terms and categories that you will run into when filing for the dissolution of your marriage. An experienced divorce attorney will help make the process go as smoothly as possible. We will advise you on how to proceed with your case in the most cost effective and time efficient manner. Call our office to speak with an experienced divorce attorney and learn your options.

Massachusetts Child Support Law

In the event of a divorce, one parent may be ordered by the court to pay child support. Under Massachusetts law, both parents are required to support their children—and this is true regardless of marital status (whether the parents are married, … [Continue reading]

Establishing Paternity in Massachusetts

When a child is born to two married parents, they are placed on the child's birth certificate. However, when parents are unmarried, paternity must be legally established in order for the non-birth parent to appear on the child's birth certificate and … [Continue reading]

Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act

Many parents-to-be wonder just how much time from work they can take off when their child is born. Effective April 7, 2015, under Massachusetts law, men and women will both be covered under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), which makes … [Continue reading]

Excellent Advocate

Compassionate. Easy to talk to. Direct. Extremely well informed and connected. This is not the guy lawyer jokes are written about. This is an honest, calm, reasonable person who advocates tirelessly for the truth. A valuable member of our MA legal … [Continue reading]

Excellent attorney!

I would highly recommend Attorney Gary Todd! He is very knowledgable in his field and, in my case, produced excellent results. I think I most appreciated the fact that he is very easy to talk to and is an excellent listener -- totally without … [Continue reading]