Joint legal custody grants both parents the authority to make important long-term decisions regarding their child, including education, medical, and dental care, with cooperation and input from the other parent.
Physical custody denotes one parent the authority with whom the child resides with and control of day-to-day activities. This means one parent has actual possession and control of the child while the non-custodial parent is granted parenting time, also known as court ordered visitation. In Massachusetts, there is a presumption, which places a judicial preference for physical custody in the parent who is the child’s main caregiver, assuming the he or she is a fit parent.
When asking for custody or for a modification of a custody order, the courts must exercise sound discretion to decide which parent should be awarded physical custody based on the best interests and welfare of the child and fitness of the parent seeking custody. The best interests of the child are determined by examining all relevant factors including;
- parental wishes as to custody;
- child’s preference;
- child’s relationship with the parents, siblings, and significant others;
- child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; and
- mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
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