Perhaps one of the most important jobs of a family court judge is to decide custody cases. A Massachusetts judge is not just making a decision lightly in such cases. The decision he or she makes will affect multiple lives, so it has to be the right one. A judge does not take this lightly. Neither does the state, which is why it has specific rules to help judges when making the decision of custody.

The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts explains the court has the option to award sole custody to one parent. When doing so, it must look at who the child has lived with the previous six months and the relationship the child has with each parent. In addition, the court looks at how responsible the parent has been in raising the child and honoring the best interests of the child.

The court may also award joint custody, but this has limits. The court can only award this type of custody if both parents agree to it. They must create a plan for parenting the child that shows it will be good for the child.

If you have not established paternity, then the mother always gets custody of the child. A father has no rights until legal paternity is established. Even after you confirm paternity, the child will stay with the mother unless you wish to try for custody. In which case, the court will look for a valid reason to remove the child from the mother’s custody. This means that you would have to prove it is better for your child to be with you as the father than with the mother. This information is for education and is not legal advice.