How Can I Get Sole Custody in MA?

By Elizabeth Rayne

When going through a divorce that involves children, custody is always of concern. Obtaining sole custody of a child in Massachusetts requires an understanding of the factors that a judge can consider when making custody decisions. The process can involve procuring witnesses and other evidence. You can visit an online legal website if you need referrals for local attorneys who handle this issue.

Sole Custody in Massachusetts

Massachusetts recognizes two types of sole custody: sole physical custody and sole legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives on a day-to-day basis. Legal custody refers to making important decisions for the child including decisions relating to education, religion, or healthcare. In an arrangement whereby one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is usually given reasonable visitation unless the court decides otherwise. It's up to the discretion of the court as to whether the child will have overnight or weekend visits with the parent who has visitation rights.

Best Interest of the Child

When determining the custody arrangement, like all state courts, Massachusetts courts are primarily concerned with the best interests of the child. The law starts with the premise that, absent misconduct, the rights of each parent in a custody case are equal. From that standpoint, the court determines custody based on the emotional, physical, and moral health and needs of the child. A parent seeking sole custody might wish to present evidence to the court showing that she is more capable of meeting the child's emotional and physical needs than the other parent. For example, a parent might indicate that since she works from home instead of commuting to a workplace, she has more time to spend with the child, or she might present witness testimony that she always attends the child's dance practices or soccer games, whereas the other parent is never there.

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Cases of Abuse

If a parent is seeking sole custody because the other parent is abusive, the parent seeking custody might present evidence that includes photos, hospital records, documentation of criminal charges and restraining orders, or relevant witness testimony. She might also present evidence of alcohol or drug abuse, such as documentation from a treatment program, to convince the court that an award of sole custody is in the child's best interests. Other relevant evidence might include letters from the child's doctor, teacher, or counselor.

Custody Ruling

In cases where the parent seeking sole custody provides evidence of abuse or that a pattern of abuse exists, the court will presume that it is against the child's best interests to award the abusive parent physical or legal custody. The judge might also order supervised visitation. In rare cases, the court might determine that the child should not have any contact with the abusive parent -- and will not award any visitation.

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About New York State Child Custody Laws


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How to Get Sole Custody When Your Ex Is an Alcoholic

Keeping a child out of harm's way is a parent's No. 1 priority. In cases of shared custody, the addictive behavior of one parent, including alcoholism, could be deemed detrimental enough to the child to award sole custody to the other parent. Further, while all states determine divorce and custody issues according to their own set of laws, the best interests of the child are paramount in custody and visitation decisions.

Rights of Divorced Parents Sharing Custody of a Child

While child custody and visitation is dictated by state law, every state awards custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child standard. In other words, parents must show that the visitation and custody that they are requesting represents what is best for the child. States do not automatically award custody to the mother or the father, and sometimes parents share custody of their children.

Pros & Cons to Gaining Sole Custody in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, sole custody may refer to either physical or legal custody. Sole legal custody grants the custodian decision-making authority over the child, even if the other parent shares physical custody or has substantial visitation. In sole physical custody arrangements, one parent's home is the primary place of residence for the child, and the other parent receives limited or supervised visitation. Rhode Island law promotes the maintenance of family unity, so sole custody rarely means that the noncustodial parent has no visitation. However, in extreme cases of neglect, abuse or addiction, a judge may remove the noncustodial parent's visitation rights.

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