FAMILY LAW INFORMATION
following is provided for informational purposes only. It is not meant
to be comprehensive or to be interpreted as legal advice. It also shall
not be interpreted in such a manner as to form an attorney-client
For such advice, consult an experienced Family Law attorney.
VISITATION WITH CHILDREN
Except in situations where a the child's safety would be in danger, the Massachusetts probate and family courts will usually allow the non-custodial parent to have some type of visitation with a minor child(ren). The courts feel that it is generally in the best interests of the child to maintain a relationship with the non-custodial parent and will try to maintain and encourage such a relationship if at all possible.
Situations where a child's safety might be in danger would include those with a history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and very commonly situations of drug and/or alcohol addiction by the non-custodial parent. Even in these situations, the courts are slow to terminate visitation entirely. Usually, the courts will alternately restrict and/or gradually loosen the terms of visitation as the current situation warrants. Some of the options that are available to the courts under these circumstances include:
1. Reducing the frequency of visitation;
2. Reducing the length (hours) of visitation periods;
3. Not allowing overnight visitation;
4. Ordering drug and/or alcohol testing and making it a condition of visitation;
5. Ordering that visitation be supervised by a family member, third party visitation supervisor, or at a visitation center
It is also generally acknowledged by those in the field that the age and development of children should have some bearing on the scheduling of visitation. Generally, very young children should have more frequent visitation with the non-custodial parent but for shorter periods and older children benefit less from the frequency of the visitation and more from a period of extended contact with the non-custodial parent.
Lastly, when there are children, the courts often see bitterness between parties manifesting itself as visitation difficulties. The prospect of a hostile parent(s) coming face to face in the presence of children is an area of recurring difficulty and of great concern to the courts. Some of the tools that are often employed by the courts to manage these difficulties include the following:
1. Restraining orders;
2. Restricted dropoff and pickup points including:
a. on the street outside of the home while one parent remains in a vehicle and the other in the home
b. dropoff and pickup at a public place (examples: local mall, McDonald's, or Dunkin' Donuts)
c. police station (extreme circumstances and generally not recommended except for infants)
3. Dropoff and pickup by parties other than the parents
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