What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws c. 208, § 31, legal and physical custody are defined as follows:

  • Sole legal custody:  one parent shall have the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child’s welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.
  • Shared legal custody:  continued mutual responsibility and involvement by both parents in major decisions regarding the children’s welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.
  •  Sole physical custody:  a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to reasonable visitation by the other parent, unless the court determines that such visitation would not be in the best interests of the child.
  •  Shared physical custody:  a child shall have periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent; provided, however, that physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure a child frequent and continued contact with both parents.
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Filed under Custody, Divorce

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