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Changing child custody arrangements

Divorced parents in Massachusetts spend a lot of time determining the best custody arrangements for their children. Based on a number of factors the parents, or court, decides on an agreement that serves the child's needs in the most effective way. Overtime, one or both of the parents may want to change the arrangement, and there are different considerations for this to occur.

According to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, there are four types of custody arrangements. These are:

  • Shared physical custody - both parents have periods of time in which the child resides in their care
  • Sole physical custody - the child resides only in one of the parents' homes
  • Shared legal custody - both parents are involved in major decisions, such as healthcare, education and emotional and religious development, that affect the child 
  • Sole legal custody - only one parent is responsible to make these major decisions

A parent may want to change the court-ordered, or agreed upon, arrangement if personal or financial conditions have changed. According to the Massachusetts Court System, the arrangement may change, but two conditions need to be met. First, the current arrangement is not meeting the interests of the child and, secondly, circumstances have changed for the better for the parent wanting the change.

Whether one party or both parents are requesting the change, the proper form needs to be filled out and filed with the court. A hearing is often required to further determine whether the change is granted, although the judge may be able to make a decision without meeting with both parties. A judgment is usually made within 30 days of the request.  

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