Many children are fortunate enough to grow up in a home with two stable, loving parents. Yet, while you may provide your children the security they need, your spouse may act in a manner that could harm or endanger them – and you. If you have filed for divorce, you may worry about your children’s well-being if your spouse wants to share custody with you. Depending on your circumstances, this may be an inappropriate arrangement.
Understanding when shared custody is inappropriate
In divorce cases involving children, Massachusetts courts do not presume that shared custody is – or is not – in their best interests. Yet, many parents opt for this arrangement, or the court may award it at its discretion. So long as both parents are fit, the court may rule that shared custody could provide their children the continuity and stability they need.
Yet, your spouse’s conduct could put your children at risk and destabilize their lives. If it threatens to, you may want to request sole physical and legal custody. This could be the most appropriate arrangement if your spouse:
- Has committed domestic violence against you
- Has physically, emotionally or sexually abused your children
- Has a history of neglect or abandonment
- Has a history of alcohol or drug abuse
How sole custody works in Massachusetts
If you receive sole physical custody of your children, your home will be their residence. The court will likely award your spouse parenting time – which may be supervised or restricted – unless it is not in your children’s best interests. The court could deny your spouse parenting time if they have a history of domestic violence or have seriously abused your children.
Receiving sole legal custody is rare and tends to happen in cases where one parent is unfit. If the court awards it to you, you will have the exclusive right to make decisions about your children’s lives.
Few parents hope to seek sole custody of their children during their divorce. Yet, it may be necessary for you to do so to ensure your children’s safety. An attorney can help you determine whether it is an appropriate option for your family’s circumstances.