There are different types of Massachusetts child custody arrangements. There is legal versus physical custody and temporary versus permanent custody. The arrangement ordered by a court largely depends on the situation and what it deems to be in a child’s best interests.

Legal Custody

Legal custody involves the right to make decisions on a child’s welfare including medical care, education, religious practices, sports activities, and living arrangements. In sole legal custody, only one parent has the right and responsibility to make those decisions. In shared legal custody, both parents have equal legal rights to do so.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines with which parent a child will live. Under sole physical custody, children live with just one parent. That parent is responsible for full supervision of that child. The other parent may be granted visitation rights by the courts, unless the court decides that visitation is not in the child’s best interest.

Under shared physical custody, children will spend time living with each parent. The amount of time spent with each parent is not necessarily equal. For instance, children may live with one parent during the week (because of school schedules) and with the other parent during the weekends. Another possibility is splitting the schedule around holidays and school vacations. Ultimately, the goal is to allow children to frequently spend time with each parent without being disruptive to their education, health, etc.

Temporary Versus Permanent Custody

Massachusetts child custody arrangements can be temporary or permanent. Typically, during divorce proceedings, temporary shared legal custody is awarded to both parents. This allows both to continue making decisions for their children until permanent custody arrangements can be determined. Under special circumstances, such as past or current physical or substance abuse, temporary sole custody may be awarded to one parent. Eventually, the court will make a decision on permanent custody arrangement.