When parents separate, agreeing on custody arrangements can be a stressful situation. In the eyes of the Massachusetts courts, a child’s best interest is always at the forefront of custody arrangements.
While it’s generally presumed that it’s in a child’s interest to maintain a relationship with both parents, this isn’t always the case. A parent who feels a safe environment cannot be provided by the other parent may request sole custody.
Types of Custody in Massachusetts
Joint physical custody is a legal arrangement whereby both parents share custody of a child or children following divorce or separation. Sole physical custody, on the other hand, refers to a situation where only one parent holds custody.
Massachusetts law recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical custody.
If a parent is granted sole legal custody, they are allowed to make decisions on behalf of the child pertaining to all aspects of the child’s life like religion, education, and medical choices. Sole physical custody applies to one co-parent and that parent provides the primary residence for the child or children.
Obtaining Sole Custody in Massachusetts
In order for a parent to be granted sole physical and legal custody, the other parent must be deemed unfit. There are multiple factors in determining parent fitness.
A parent may be deemed unfit if they fail to fulfill their essential parental responsibilities. Below are a few situations that can lead to a parent’s approval of sole custody in Massachusetts.
A history of physical abuse
A parent can be deemed unfit if they pose a physical threat to another family member or threaten imminent harm. Physical abuse can be used as a means of requesting sole custody.
A history of substance abuse
A parent struggling with substance abuse may be unable to provide a safe environment for a child or children. The inability to provide a secure environment can lead to parental unfitness.
Neglected childcare responsibilities
A court has the ability to remove custody from a parent who purposefully neglects financial obligations or parenting responsibilities. In such cases, the other parent may be granted sole custody.
Parental mental health concerns
In the event a parent’s mental health prevents them from effectively parenting, they may be deemed unfit. This can lead to the other parent being awarded sole custody. However, the parent found unfit due to mental illness may later petition for a change if they receive treatment.
Custody arrangements are never easy. Whether you wish to pursue sole or joint custody, you need to know your rights as a parent. Contact me today at (508) 752-2727.