How to Get Custody of a Child

The two main reasons to file for custody of a child are if you are going through a divorce or if the child is born out of wedlock.

Father and his son | Child Custody

If you are seeking custody, there are a few steps you need to take to file for custody of a child under the age of 18. Hiring an attorney experienced in family law can ensure that you are proceeding to file for custody in a way that aligns with both your best interest and the interest of the child.

Types of Sole Custody

There are two types of sole custody in Massachusetts for children under the age of 18: legal and physical custody. Legal custody allows you to have entire legal guardianship over the rights of your child. Physical custody provides you with access to see the child in person and remain in contact with them.

There are instances where a parent can have legal custody over the child, while the other parent only has physical custody. These cases either allow the parent with physical custody to have visitation rights or allow the child to live with the parent. However, physical custody will not allow that parent control over their legal rights, such as choosing where they receive education, what doctor they go to, etc.

Do I Need an Attorney to Get Custody of a Child?

Yes. Getting custody of a child can be a delicate process for both you and the child involved. It is often an emotionally charged time for all parties. Having an attorney to represent you and your best interests while guiding you through the case from start to final resolution.

Experienced attorneys have been through the child custody court process before. They will know what supporting documentation you will need to provide to the court. They can also prepare you for hearings and what questions you may be asked. With an experienced attorney present, you will not be surprised by anything unexpected during the court process.

How the Court Determine Who Receives Child Custody?

Massachusetts court will determine who receives child custody based on a variety of factors including financial ability to provide for the child and who the primary caregiver is. The court will assess whether the environment you provide is safe and healthy for the child before granting you custody.

A family law attorney knows what factors the court will deem most important in your case. They can ensure that you are best prepared both to file and to achieve custody of the child.

What Forms are Needed?

There are two important forms that parents must complete to receive custody: the Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceeding and the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

The Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceeding provides general information on the parent filing for custody of the child, as well as the attorneys involved. The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet more detailed information about what is needed to receive custody of the child. This worksheet focuses on financial abilities of child custody and includes providing information on income and child costs, such as healthcare.

Child Custody vs. Visitation

Part of the child custody decisions made in Probate & Family Court include whether you are filing for joint custody or sole custody, and whether parenting time or visitation rights are involved.

If you are filing for sole custody, there are options for the other parent to have parenting time or visitation rights. If you are filing for joint custody, you will need to determine the logistics of where the child will live and how often they see each parent.

Having an attorney with high success and experience in Probate & Family Court in Massachusetts, especially when it comes to child custody, impacts the outcome of the child’s future relationship with each parent. It’s important to contact an attorney as early as possible in the process in order to ensure that the child custody outcome suits both your best interests and the interests of the child.

Who Has Legal Child Custody Before Filing?

If there has never been a court case before that has decided that child’s custody, married parents share legal and physical custody. If unmarried, the mother has legal and physical custody until a court orders differently.

If the child is at risk of endangerment or resides in an unhealthy environment, a judge may issue a custody order until the court determines who receives custody of the child after filing.

Our attorneys at Bonville & Howard Attorneys at Law will assess your situation and determine the best course of action. They can guide you on how to file for child custody in Probate & Family Court, as well as discuss which options you have to determine the best type of custody.


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