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Massachusetts’s child custody and nontraditional families

Child custody laws in Massachusetts have some interesting aspects that many people may not be aware exist. These cases involve nontraditional families and include cases of adoption (or lack thereof), same-sex couples that bear children and de facto parenting issues.

In 2006, a case hit the courts of a woman who never formally adopted her same-sex partner’s child, but was found to be aware of how important it was to do so. Since the woman was not the child’s primary caregiver, she did not have any legal rights under the law to parenting time, visitation or child support as a de facto parent. This hammers home the importance of adoption in nontraditional families.

A 2012 case involving a same-sex marriage where one parent bore a child found that the child was the legitimate child of both parents. This means that when same-sex couples marry the need for adoption is eliminated so long as the child is born of one parent in the course of marriage. In such cases, parental rights would attach in terms of child custody, visitation and support.

Finally, in 1999 a ruling regarding de facto parenting in nontraditional families was rendered. This ruling was that a child can be part of a nontraditional family where the parents include a traditional, legal parent and a de facto parent. De facto parents are defined as having no biological connection to the child, but are caregivers and important forces in the child’s family life. They have parental rights in the eyes of the court.

Those who are facing child custody issues in a nontraditional family are always advised to seek the services of a qualified central Massachusetts family law attorney.

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