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Custody, Parenting Time, and Visitation

Going through a separation or divorce, or leaving an abusive relationship, is not easy. Your life is disrupted, and if you have children, their lives are disrupted, too. If you have children, the legal, financial, and emotional issues are even more complicated. It is a stressful time for children.

The Custody, Parenting Time, and Visitation section has information about how the law deals with your children when the parents are separated or divorced. It will help you think through the legal issues you will need to answer questions like:

Where will the children live?

Who will they live with?

Who will make important decisions about their lives?

How can my children spend time with the parent they are not living with?

Where there is domestic violence, should the children have supervised visitation with the abusive parent?

If you and the other parent cannot agree on these questions, you can go to court. The judge will decide about custody, parenting time, and visitation. This section has information about how judges make these decisions.

Sometimes grandparents can get visitation rights.

When you use this information, it is very important to remember that every case is different. This information is very general. It is not a substitute for individual legal advice.

If you need advice about how to proceed in your particular situation, especially if both parents do not agree about ending the relationship, or if you are trying to leave an abusive relationship, you should talk to a lawyer.

Get Help Now

You may qualify for free legal assistance from your local legal aid program.

If you are seeking a free attorney, Find Legal Aid

Helpful Links

Planning for Shared Parenting: A Guide for Parents Living Apart

This booklet written in 2005 was sponsored by the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) with the encouragement and support of Chief Justice Dunphy of the Probate and Family Court. "This guide combines recent developmental research about children and the impact of divorce on their lives, with the practical needs of parents and children living apart. It is the hope of the task force members that this booklet will be useful to parents, judges, lawyers, mediators, and parent educators in designing realistic, child-focused parenting plans." (from the Introduction) This booklet has been distributed to every judge and chief probation officer in the Probate and Family Court.

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