There are different types of custody arrangements which are appropriate in different situations. These custody arrangements are defined by law.

Sole legal custody

Sole legal custody means that one parent has the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child's welfare, including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.

Shared legal custody

Shared legal custody means continued mutual responsibility and involvement by both parents in major decisions regarding the child's welfare, including matters of education, medical care, and emotional, moral and religious development.

Sole physical custody

Sole physical custody means that a child resides with and is under the supervision of one parent, subject to reasonable visitation by the other parent, unless the court decides that such visitation would not be in the best interest of the child.

Shared physical custody

Shared physical custody means that a child has periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent, and that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way that assures the child frequent and continued contact with both parents.

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated August 2015

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