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Massachusetts Child Custody

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In Boston and everywhere else in Massachusetts, the courts will look at what is in "the best interest of the child" in determining which parent will be awarded child custody. Judges have very broad discretion in awarding custody and will consider "the happiness & welfare of the children" along with many non mandated factors when deciding which parent will promote the child's best interests.

The courts can award the following types of custody:

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

If the court grants you Sole legal custody, you will be able to make major decisions regarding your child's welfare including maters of education, medical care, emotional, moral, and religious development. If the court grants you Shared legal custody , both parents will be mutually responsible for making major decisions regarding your children's welfare.

If the court grants you Sole physical custody, the child will reside with you subject to reasonable parenting time by the other parent, unless the court decides that such parenting time would not be in the best interest of the child. For shared physical custody, the child will reside and be under the supervision of each parent for a period of time that assures the child will have frequent contact with both parents.

In general, the court will give the parents shared legal custody of the minor children of the marriage so long as its in the child's best interest. If it is determined that the two parties can't cooperate on matters of the child, or a family member is found to abuse alcohol, or other drugs, the judge after considering all relevant factors may order a change to Sole legal custody to the custodial parent.

As for physical custody, the court will look at what is in the best interest of the child to determine whether Sole or Shared physical custody is warranted. In general, the court is reluctant to remove a child from their maternal mother or current residence without strong reasons.


Child Custody Video


Guardian ad Litem (GAL)


In contested custody cases or cases that involve a parent that has a history of abuse or neglect, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem in MA. A Guardian ad Litem is commonly referred to as GAL. The GAL will investigate and may write a report and make recommendations to the court about the appropriateness of custody and/or parameters of parenting time. In most cases, one or both parties must pay for the GAL.

The GAL typically interviews parents, children, teachers, doctors, friends of the family, therapists, or whomever else the GAL deems necessary for the investigation. Once the investigation is concluded the GAL may write a report and make recommendations to the court. Sometimes the recommendations of the GAL are adopted by the court. The GAL's report is impounded by the court and copies may only be given to the attorneys by way of motion.


If the court believes that a child is at serious risk and the parents don't have the financial means to pay for the GAL, the court has the statutory authority to appoint a GAL to be paid by the Commonwealth. GALs comprise of mental health professionals or attorneys appointed by the court.

The judge has broad discretion whether or not to implement some or all of the GAL's recommendations. If you challenge any of the GAL's recommendations, you may do so at trial. However, the GAL will typically require an additional fee to testify at trial.

Parent Education

Parents are required by the probate court to attend an approved Parent Education Program. Parents must register to attend the program within 60 days of the date of service of the complaint for divorce. The parents are not required to attend together. A Parent Education Certificate must be filed in court before a pretrial conference is scheduled.

Mass Child Custody Statute(Chapter 208: Section 31)

Our Boston lawyers and attorneys are experienced in all areas of child custody laws. Call attorney Robyn A. Briatico at 617-387-6800 to schedule your free 20 minute phone consult.

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