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What are the 4 kinds of custody in a Massachusetts divorce?

Getting divorced when you have kids is stressful and even frightening. You may have heard stories about parents who wind up completely cut off from their children as a result of a contentious divorce.

If you worry that you might lose out on important time with your children because you file for divorce, educating yourself about how the Massachusetts family courts handle custody might make you feel a little more secure about pursuing your own happiness.

For most families, there will only be four kinds of potential custody outcomes that could play a role in their divorce proceedings.

The Massachusetts courts assign both legal and physical custody

There are two primary kinds of custody that you can ask for in a divorce. Physical custody involves actually being present with the children and responsible for their housing, food and other basic needs. When most people talk about shared custody, they mean shared physical custody where parents exchange the children and rotate parental responsibilities.

Legal custody is also an important concern in a pending divorce. This kind of custody gives the parent the legal authority to make decisions for their child, such as what health care they receive, what religious observances they practice and how they handle their education. If you intended to be an involved parent, you likely need to ask for both legal and physical custody in a divorce. 

The courts may split up either kind of custody

When making decisions about the care of children in a family going through a divorce, the courts will usually have to decide whether to award sole or shared custody. It is possible for them to order shared physical custody to both parents but to give one parent sole legal custody. Sometimes, one parent gets sole legal and physical custody.

The four kinds of custody terms possible in a Massachusetts divorce are:

  • Sole physical custody
  • Shared physical custody
  • Sole legal custody
  • Shared legal custody

For many families, some form of joint or shared custody is the likeliest outcome. Talking about your family needs and your hopes for the divorce with the lawyer can give you a better idea about what terms are possible and how to push for the best possible outcome.