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Co-parenting in Massachusetts: Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

Child Custody in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, child custody generally falls into two categories: “legal custody” and “physical custody”. Legal custody refers to the parents’ authority to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, health care, religious practices, and education. Physical custody pertains to a child’s primary residence. In cases where both parents seek custody, a court may award joint legal custody, with one parent receiving physical custody and the other having visitation rights. The court may also award sole custody, giving the custodial parent full decision-making power and physical custody of the child.


Child Support in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, both parents are expected to contribute financially to the needs of their children. Child support is usually calculated based on the parents’ income, and the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines provide a formula for precisely determining support payment obligations. Parents may also be asked to contribute to health insurance and daycare costs. However, in married couples, the court may also consider the supporting spouse’s marital financial assets, such as real estate, when determining child support. According to Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 208, § 34), if either parent fails to pay child support, the court may issue a warning. If the parent continues to fail to pay child support, the court may impose punishments such as the suspension of driver’s or professional licenses or even jail time.


Co-Parenting Expenses

When both custodial and non-custodial parents have equal custody of their children and equal rights to make decisions for their children, the court may determine an equal co-parenting expense. Such expenses may include the costs of extracurricular activities, health care and educational needs, as well as any other expenses the court deems necessary. Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 208, § 34) states that parents may reach a mutually satisfactory agreement regarding co-parenting expenses and submit that agreement to the court for approval. In the event that the parents cannot agree, the court may determine co-parenting expenses on a case-by-case basis.


Parental Rights in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, both parents have the right to access to the child’s medical, educational and psychological records. Additionally, the Massachusetts’ Abuse prevention act (M.G.L. c. 209A, § 9) grants both parents the right to request and receive notification of any medical, educational or psychological appointments that pertain to their child’s care. The court may also grant both parents the right to establish an emergency plan for the child if the eventuality arises.


Decision-Making Rights

In Massachusetts, both custodial and non-custodial parents have the right to make decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, health care, religious practices, and education. In cases where both parents seek legal custody, the court may award joint legal custody. However, the court may also grant sole legal custody to one parent, giving them full decision-making power. In cases where a parent is granted only visitation rights, they may still be consulted whenever a major decision is being made.


Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is an agreement between two parents which describes the details of their co-parenting arrangement. In Massachusetts, all co-parents are legally required to draw up a parenting plan that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each parent, including decisions on child custody, visitation rights, child support, and educational and extracurricular expenses. Parents may choose either of the following methods to create a parenting plan:

  • Draft a parenting plan themselves
  • Attend a court-mandated mediation session to help create and agree upon a parenting plan


The court will review the parenting plan and even amend it if necessary. According to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the court must consider “the best interests of the child” when making their decision.


Visitation Rights

In Massachusetts, parents may design their own visitation plan. Visitation plans typically outline the days and times that a child will spend with the non-custodial parent, as well as any transportation arrangements. If the parents cannot agree on a visitation plan, the court may intervene and impose a visitation plan of its own. In such cases, the court typically bases the plan on the best interests of the child. There are two types of visitation in Massachusetts: supervised visitation and unsupervised visitation. Supervised visitation is requested when there is a concern for the child’s safety and well-being. Unsupervised visitation is allowed as long as one parent has not been granted full physical custody of the child.



In Massachusetts, the court may require parents to attend mediation in order to come to an agreement regarding the details of a parenting plan. Such mediation sessions typically involve the parents, a mediator, and a mental health professional. The mediator is a neutral third-party who will facilitate the discussions between the parents and help them reach an agreement. Courts may also require parents to attend parenting classes that are designed to help them to reach a mutual agreement.



Raising a child can be challenging for any parent, but co-parenting can be an effective way to ensure that people are on the same page and that their child is receiving the best possible care. In Massachusetts, there are many important legal factors to consider when it comes to co-parenting, including custody, child support, co-parenting expenses, parental rights, decisions, parenting plans, visitation rights and mediation. The state of Massachusetts provides legal parameters for co-parents to follow, which are designed to ensure that the best interests of the child are always taken into account.


Fact Check and Resources

In crafting this post, we conducted thorough fact-checking and research, consulting the following sources:


Co-parenting in USA


Co-parenting in Canada


Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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