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What conditions can be placed on visitation in Massachusetts?

This blog has dealt with several types of custody issues that people in Massachusetts might encounter. We’ve previously discussed some of the basics of the best interests of the child standard applied by family courts in the state, and the general types of custody, such as legal and physical, as well as sole and shared. However, when physical custody is awarded to one parent, it is customary for a court to grant the other parent some form of visitation so that he or she can be involved in the child’s life.

The basic type of visitation awarded is frequent and liberal, but this could be altered by the parties or findings made by the court. The parties might agree to a certain schedule of visitation, for example, or the court may place restrictions on the visitation by one of the parties. This latter case is most often seen when one party has been accused of, and the court has found evidence of, abuse.

According to Massachusetts statute, a family court may place conditions on the visitation of an abusive parent, to attempt to provide for the safety of the child and the abused parent. The court could order that any visitation be supervised by an agency or other third party, or that the child be exchanged at a certain designated place, like a police station. The court might also order the abusive parent to complete a batterer education course, or to abstain from intoxicants during visitation and for a limited period prior. Overnight visitation could be prohibited.

While family courts in Massachusetts strive to allow both parents to share in the upbringing of a child even if they are no longer involved with each other, the protection of the children is of paramount importance. When there is evidence of abuse in a child custody case, a court can make decisions that restrict a parent’s ability to be involved with a child to protect the best interests of that child.