• What types of custody there are?

In Massachusetts, there are two types of custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability to make all major decisions regarding the child. This includes decisions pertaining to the child’s healthcare and education. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and the ability to make day-to-day decisions.  Parents may have sole or shared legal and physical custody.

  • How does the court decide issues of custody and visitation?

Judges will consider the best interests of the child, and not necessarily the parents’ wishes, to decide on the issues of custody and visitation. Some of the factors that Judges will look at include, but are not limited to, the child’s well-being, relationship with school and ties to the community, relationship with parents and other family members, parents’ history of abuse, drug use or abandonment, and whether one parent has been the primary caregiver in the past.

  • Can custody and parenting arrangements change?

The parents can change the terms of custody and parenting by mutual agreement, or they can petition the court to change or modify the existing order. The court will consider whether there is a material change in circumstances since the order was issued and whether the child’s needs are being met with the current order.

  • Do same-sex partners have the right to custody or parental rights with their non-biological child?

A parent who has no biological relationship to the child, but has participated in the child’s life as a member of his or her family is called a “de facto parent”. In Massachusetts, a “de facto parent” may request and obtain from the court parenting time with his or her child.