One of the most complicated parts of reaching a divorce settlement is deciding how custody and visitation with a child will be shared amongst parents. Not only are the needs of the child to be considered, but parents themselves may also have strong feelings about visitation. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, we understand that reaching a child visitation agreement can be difficult to do. Our experienced attorney will work hard to help you understand child visitation laws in Massachusetts, and advocate for your and your child’s best interests.
Types of Custody Arrangements in Massachusetts
There are four primary types of custody and visitation arrangements that are used in Massachusetts. These include:
- Sole physical custody – The child resides with and is under the physical supervision of one parent – the other parent may or may not have visitation rights;
- Sole legal custody – One parent is 100 percent responsible for making decisions about the child’s life, such as the religion they will be raised or where they will go to school;
- Shared physical custody – Both parents spend an equal amount of time with the child and both parents are equally responsible for the child’s wellbeing; and
- Shared legal custody – Both parents are responsible for making decisions about the child’s life.
It is common in situations where one parent has sole custody for the other parent to have visitation rights. In fact, the only time that visitation is not permitted by the court is in the event that there is an extenuating circumstance that would make visitation dangerous or negative for the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing. For example, if the non-custodial parent is abusive and has abused the child in the past, visitation may not be permitted.
Creating an Agreement Regarding Visitation
The court has a duty to make a custody decision that supports a child’s best interests; the child’s best interests are determined based on a consideration of a number of factors. These factors are not explicitly listed – per Chapter 208, Section 31 of Massachusetts General Laws, the court has the discretion to consider all relevant factors.
Once custody a custody arrangement is decided, parents and the court will need to make a determination about whether the other parent will have visitation rights, and if so, whether or not a visitation schedule is necessary. In some cases, such as cases where parents are on good terms and able to work together, a detailed schedule will not be necessary. In other cases, a schedule must be included in a Massachusetts parenting plan, and may even be so specific that details such as who will transport the child from one house to the other are required.
Of course, there may also be a need to consider the visitation rights of other parties, such as grandparents and siblings. If parents are in agreement about who should have visitation rights, this can be included as part of a parenting plan. If parents are not in agreement, the matter may need to be settled by a judge.
Contact the Law Office of Heather M. Ward Today
If you have questions about visitation during a divorce, or would like to change your current visitation arrangement with your child, you need an attorney. Heather M. Ward is an experienced Boston family law attorney with positive client testimonials and a passion for her work. To schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Heather M. Ward today, please call (617) 903-8955, or fill out the form on our website to send us a message.