It is unfortunate that in Massachusetts, many children find themselves in situations of abuse and neglect. Oftentimes, parents even separate precisely because one or the other parent is hurting the children.
Massachusetts has a law that affords special protections to victims of abuse. Specifically, when a court deciding custody uncovers credible allegations of abuse, the court will presume that it is not in the child’s best interest to award that parent custody. Likewise, the court may enter restrictive visitation orders requiring things like supervised visits at the parent’s expense, counseling and other restrictions on visitation rights.
Perhaps to cut down on the number of abuse accusations that are exaggerated or false, Massachusetts has a restrictive definition of what constitutes abuse for purposes of child custody and visitation.
Basically, the type of abuse that might affect custody and visitation has involve some sort of bodily injury or, at least, the reasonable threat of bodily injury. Although they might have some bearing on a child custody decision, allegations of verbal or emotional abuse are not going to fall under this law.
Moreover, it is important to note that, for most cases, one-time cases of abuse are not going to affect custody and parenting time. Instead, the concerned parent must show that there was some pattern of abusive behavior.
It is important to remember a couple of practical points about this law. First, generally speaking, the filing of a protective order or even criminal charges has no impact one way or the other on whether this law applies, meaning that a parent concerned about abuse can still ask for relief even if the state does not intend to prosecute the other parent.
On the flip side, even a parent who has been credibly accused of abuse can still get liberal parenting time and even custody if they can prove that the child’s best interests are served by the court’s doing so.