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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California Laws on Teenage Custody Wishes


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How to Dispute a Custody Evaluation

In contentious child custody cases, judges may appoint third-party evaluators to investigate the facts of the case. These evaluators have a different role from expert witnesses hired by parents and judges are often heavily influenced by their custody evaluations. However, custody evaluators are not perfect; they are subject to bias, flawed research methods and a number of other methodological errors. If you wish to contest a child custody evaluation, it is insufficient to merely disagree with the evaluator. You must show why the evaluator is wrong and demonstrate why her recommendations are not in your child's best interests.

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.

The Best Interest of Children in a Custody Evaluation

Understanding the needs of a child is a crucial component to making an informed custody decision. Custody matters are governed by state law; however, every state requires courts to promote the best interests of the child. When parents can work together, a judge is generally inclined to conclude that the parents' agreed upon parenting proposal serves the best interests of the child. If parents cannot agree, the court must make its own determination. In these instances, neutral custody evaluations are often used to provide judges with an opinion from a qualified professional as to what arrangement promotes the best interests of the child.

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