What Custody Means in Massachusetts

You have kids, and you don’t live with their other parent for whatever reason. You might be separated or divorced or never married.

The following are the kinds of custody you can have of children in Massachusetts:

Joint Custody/Shared Parenting/Co-Parenting
The courts in Massachusetts are generally in love with the concept of ‘co-parenting’ – it’s all the rage, and it actually makes sense if both parties are willing and able and live near enough to each other for this to work.  If you have a ‘co-parenting’ plan, you have “joint physical and joint legal custody” of your kids.

Physical Custody – this is where the child resides the majority of the time, if it’s half and half, then both parties may have it.

Legal Custody – this means a party has legal rights to the child, including the right to have access to all of the child’s medical and school records.  This also means that this party has input on all of the major decisions of a child’s life, including medical decisions, religious decisions, where the child attends school or camp, and anything else that might arise.  The child does not have to reside with you for you to have these rights.  If you and another party both have legal custody it’s called joint legal custody.

Sole Custody – this means you are the only one with legal and physical custody of the child.  This does not mean that the other party never sees the child (although it might); it could mean that the other party has visitation with the child (supervised or unsupervised).

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