Massachusetts law about child custody and parenting time

Laws, regulations, cases and web sources on the law of child custody, parenting time and visitation.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 208, § 28 Care, custody and maintenance

MGL c. 208, § 28A Temporary care

MGL c. 208, § 29 Minor children, foreign divorces

MGL c. 208, § 30 Removal of child from state

MGL c. 208, § 31 Shared custody

MGL c. 208, § 31A Consideration of abuse

MGL c. 208, § 32 Bringing child before court

MGL c. 209, § 38 Visitation and custody orders; consideration of abuse toward parent or child; best interest of child

MGL c. 209B Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act

MGL c. 209C, § 10 Award of custody; criteria
Prior to or in the absence of an adjudication or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the mother shall have custody of a child born out of wedlock.

Court rules and orders

Selected cases


See File for child custody or parenting time for forms and additional information on court procedure.

Web sources

General information

Child custody: family law advocacy for low and moderate income litigants, 3rd ed., 2018, chapter 9.
Online version of a great book includes information on differences between married and unmarried parents, types of custody arrangements, how a judge decides, changing custody orders, and necessary procedures, including checklists and sample forms.

Custody guide for child caregivers, Mass. Court Improvement Program.
This guide is designed for anyone who is, or may become, a caregiver for a child in Massachusetts.

FAQs about divorce, Alan Pransky.
This site includes everything you every wanted to know about divorce, alimony, child support and child custody, but were afraid to ask. It includes answers to questions like: What happens to debts in a divorce?, I'm separated: Can I date?, How are family pets handled?, When can I stop paying child support?, How is alimony decided? and much more.

Guidelines for professional parenting time supervisors (Effective June 20, 2023)

Overview of custody, parenting time, and visitation, Mass. Legal Help, 2024.
This page includes information and answers to many common questions about child custody, parenting time, and visitation.

Supervised visitation, Mass. Legal Help, 2024.
"Sometimes, it may not be safe to leave your child alone with a parent during visitation. In these situations, the court can order supervised visitation." See also a list of Supervised Visitation Centers throughout Massachusetts.

Moving away

Leaving Massachusetts: family law advocacy for low and moderate income litigants, 3d ed. 2018, Chapter 12. Mass. Legal Services.
Online version of a great book, this chapter covers all the details of an action to move out of state with your child, or to prevent the other parent from moving. Includes sample forms.

Parenting and parenting agreements

Guidelines for court investigation reports, Juvenile Court Department, March 9th, 2020.
In a care and protection proceeding, a judge must have as much relevant information available as possible. One important source of information is the report of the court investigator, because it provides the court with useful information that otherwise may not be presented by any of the parties in the proceedings. 

Helpful readings toward the understanding of family changes by Robert A. Zibbell, 2015.
"An annotated bibliography and resource list for divorce or separated parents and their children. This collection was part of a project of public information initiated by the Hampshire County Probate and Family Court in Northampton, MA."

Planning for shared parenting: a guide for parents living apart, Mass. Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
The section which describes optimal arrangements by child's age is particularly helpful.

Standards for Category F guardian ad litem investigators, Executive Office of the Trial Court, January 2005.
A Category F Guardian ad Litem investigator (GAL) is appointed by the Probate and Family Court to investigate facts in cases involving the care and custody of minor children and other matters that implicate the interests or rights of children. 

Up to
Resources for parents who are separated, divorced, or never married each other (not specific to Massachusetts). The site provides advice and information in video form.

Print sources

Being a great divorced father : real-life advice from a dad who's been there by Paul Mandelstein, Nolo, 2010.

Building a parenting agreement that works: child custody agreements step by step, Nolo, 2022. (eBook available here with library card)

Child support & custody update, MCLE, 2018.

DCF case practice policy and procedures manual, Dept. of Children and Families, 2008, with updates.

Family law & practice. 4th ed. (Mass. Practice v.1, 2, 2A ,3) Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement. Chapter 61-65.

Handling interstate removal cases, MCLE, 2010.

How to try a removal case, MCLE, 2013.

LexisNexis practice guide, Massachusetts family law, LexisNexis, annual. 
Chapter 8: Custody and visitation provides an overview of the law regarding child custody and visitation in Massachusetts and includes relevant case law. 

Massachusetts domestic relations, LexisNexis, 2019 with updates. Chapter 8: Custody of minor children and visitation. 
This chapter covers custody of minor children, whether to a parent, grandparent, or other relative or non-relative. In includes discussion of the “best interest of the child” standard and other factors such as parental conduct the Court considers in making a custody determination. 

Nolo's essential guide to child custody & support by Emily Doskow, Nolo, 2021. (2024 eBook available here with library card)

Principles of the law of family dissolution, analysis and recommendations, the American Law Institute, 2002 with updates. 
Chapter 2 discusses parenting plans, allocation of custodial and decision making responsibilities and provides helpful illustrations.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about child custody and parenting time

Last updated: March 13, 2024

Help Us Improve  with your feedback

Please do not include personal or contact information.