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Massachusetts Child Visitation

There is very little guidance by way of Massachusetts statutes or case law in determining the amount of time a non-custodial parent should have with their children. The court has broad discretion in determining the frequency and duration of non-custodial parenting time.

At a minimum, in cases involving shared legal custody, noncustodial parents are given parenting time on alternate weekends, alternate holidays, one night during the week, shared school vacation week, and an extended period during the summer.

In contested custody cases where either party seeks shared legal or physical custody, the parties must submit to the court a shared custody implementation plan that includes the following:

  • Child's Education
  • Child's Health
  • Procedure to resolve child-raising disputes, and
  • Parenting time

While the courts must consider the Parental Plans submitted by the parties, they will always look at what is in the best interest of the child in determining whether all or part of the plan is implemented or whether to reject the plan and issue sole legal and physical custody to either party.
In general, the court will usually allow the non-custodial parent some type of parenting time with their children except in situations where the children's safety may be in danger.

In situations of Domestic Violence, child abuse, or neglect, the court in looking out for the best interest of the children is likely to appoint a Guardian ad Litem or what is referred to as GAL to conduct an investigation and assess the appropriateness and parameters of parenting time. The GAL will submit a report with findings and sometimes recommendations to help the court decide what if any parenting time should be given to the noncustodial parent and the parameters of parenting time.

By statute, the judge "shall provide for the safety & well-being of the child". For parents with a drug or alcohol history, the courts may order drug testing or a GAL investigation. For cases where domestic violence is an issue the judge must ensure the safety of both the parent and the child. The following are options the court may consider in Domestic Violence cases:

  • order exchanges to take place in protected settings or in the presence of a third party.
  • order supervised parenting time by an appropriate third party, visitation center, or agency.
  • prohibit overnight visitation
  • impose any other condition that provides for the safety of the parent and child.

There are many professionals in the field of child development that believe a child's age and development should play an important role in determining the frequency and duration of non custodial parenting time. You should take this into consideration when developing a parenting plan. For younger children, the noncustodial parent should be in contact with their children more often but with a shorter duration. Likewise, older children can benefit from less frequent but longer lasting visits.

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