Part of being a parent means dealing with anxiety and fear on a regular basis. You worry about your child’s safety and health; you second-guess decisions you make about discipline; you might even lose sleep thinking about your child’s future.
If you are a parent who is getting divorced, you will have even more worries racing through your mind, including whether or not you might lose custody of your child. To alleviate some of these concerns, we will examine how child custody is determined in Massachusetts and what factors can contribute to a loss of custody.
To begin with, you should understand that there are two types of custody: physical and legal. A parent can be awarded sole or shared legal custody and/or sole or shared physical custody.
To determine custody, the courts will consider numerous factors, collectively referred to as the child’s best interests. They will look at the relationship the child has with both parents, a parent’s ability to meet the needs of their child and the living conditions, among other things.
Generally speaking, parents will share one or both types of custody. While Massachusetts laws don’t specifically favor or object to shared custody, numerous studies show children benefit when they can have frequent and/or consistent interactions with both parents.
This is not to say that custody will always be awarded. If the courts determine that awarding a person physical and/or legal custody is not in the best interests of the child, they can award sole custody to just one parent. This can happen in situations where a parent has abandoned the child or is violent, abusive or addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The thought of losing custody of your child can be overwhelmingly frightening. However, hopefully understanding a little more about the process will alleviate some of your concerns and help you manage expectations. You should also remember that every case is unique and must be considered on an individual basis.
For this reason, it can be critical that you consult an attorney sooner, rather than later, when dealing with child custody. He or she can assess your specific situation and help you pursue the outcome you deserve.