You can file for custody in the Probate and Family Court in the appropriate county. Your child must have lived in Massachusetts for at least six months immediately before you file for custody. This is called the “home state rule.” There may be exceptions to the “home state rule” when the child has lived in a different state with one parent. You should talk to a lawyer if you have questions about whether Massachusetts is the right state to file your case.
If you are filing for custody through a divorce: If you or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, you file for divorce at the Probate and Family Court in that county. Otherwise, you can file in the county where you or your spouse live now.
For all other cases you must file in the county where the child lives.
See Where do I file? to find the court for your county.
Establishing Child Custody
- Seeking an Initial Child Custody or Visitation Order
- Who Has Custody Before Going to Court?
- Who Can File for Custody?
- What if I Have Been Abused?
- Where Do I File for Custody?
- What Forms Do I File for Custody or Visitation?
- How to File for Custody or Visitation
- How Does a Judge Decide Child Custody or Visitation?
- More Information About Custody and Visitation Orders