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Violence and child custody

In Massachusetts, custody and visitation laws stipulate how incidents of violence should be handled by the court. This means that if one parent commits an act of violence against the other parent or against the child, the abusive parent may be denied custody. Additionally, that parent could face restrictions on their visitation privileges. However, the nature of the violent act plays a large part in determining what action the court will take.

A court may decide that a parent should not be granted custody if that parent has engaged in a pattern of abuse or if that parent has committed an incident of serious abuse. In this context, abuse means physically hurting the other parent or the child, attempting to physically hurt the other parent or the child, or placing them in fear of injury. An incident of serious abuse is defined as an action resulting in severe physical harm, making someone believe that they are in danger or forcing someone to engage in sex.

Parents who are denied custody because of violence or abuse can attempt to prove that it is in the best interests of the child that they should be granted custody. However, if this is successful, the court must issue a written statement within 90 days explaining why the abusive parent was granted custody.

Parents who are deemed abusive may still be allowed visitation, though they will likely have to abide by the court's order regarding visitation. This means that the court can create severe restrictions on that parent's visitation rights.

Child custody cases can be complex. An attorney may be able to help parents come to agreements with the court so that custody and visitation orders are in the best interests of the child.

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