Armstrong Law, P.C.

Grounds for modifying custody in Massachusetts

Like all states, Massachusetts law provides for modifications to custody orders. However, a parent cannot obtain a modification merely because he or she does not like the current order. The state is very deliberate in how it assigns custody the first time around. If one or both parties to an agreement feels as if an arrangement is not working, they must show how it is not working and why the shortfall negatively impacts the child.

According to Mass.gov, the court uses the child's best interests standard when devising a custody schedule. This standard factors in a child's well-being, his or her relationship with both parents and family members, the school district and community in which each parent lives, both parents' history of drug abuse, violence and abandonment, and the child's preferences. The state does not make custody decisions lightly, so when a parent does request modification, it expects to see ample evidence in favor of the change.

Mass.gov also details the grounds for modification. The courts will only consider a change if one of three circumstances exist:  

  •       A significant change to one or both parents' circumstances has occurred since the creation of the initial judgement or temporary order.
  •       The child's best interests are not being met in the current arrangement.
  •       Both parents agree to the change. 

If only one parent advocates a modification to the custody agreement, that parent must file a motion for temporary orders, a new proposed order detailing what he or she would like the new order to say and an affidavit that contains evidence in support of the change. If both parents agree to the change, the process is much simpler and involves filing a joint modification form.  

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