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If you are a parent just beginning the divorce process in Massachusetts, you may be wondering what your options are for child custody. Whether you and your spouse can agree on a custody arrangement for your child or you will be figuring it out in court, it is important to fully understand the different options available to you, so you can advocate for the best option for your child.

Physical custody

Physical custody refers to where the child physically lives. Sole physical custody is one custody arrangement. It involves the child living with just one parent. Typically, when this type of custody arrangement is granted, the parent who does not have sole physical custody is granted parenting time to help maintain a relationship with his or her child.

Shared physical custody is an arrangement that is growing in popularity. Shared physical custody involves the child living with each parent for a designated amount of time, resulting in regular contact with both parents. However, it is important to understand that shared physical custody arrangements do not always result in an even split of the child’s time.

Legal custody

Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing. Decisions about education, non-emergency medical care and religion are some of the rights included with legal custody.

Sole legal custody is a custody arrangement that grants one parent the right to make these decisions. Shared legal custody grants those rights to both parents. Typically, shared legal custody is granted even if one parent has sole physical custody.

What are the courts considerations when determining custody?

When determining a custody arrangement or an arrangement for parenting time, the court takes many facets of the situation into consideration. The most important consideration is what is in the best interest of the child. However, other factors the court will consider include:

  • If there is a history of one parent being the primary caregiver
  • The child’s relationships with his or her family members
  • How the child is doing in school

Sometimes, the court will consider the child’s preference. However, this will depend on the child’s maturity and is typically not a deciding factor.

Determining the best child custody arrangement can be complicated. However, understanding the basic options available to you is a good step on your way to finding the best option for your child.