Massachusetts General Law (MGL) 208 covers divorce. This chapter of the laws of the Commonwealth describe everything from the definition of divorce to alimony, child support, and custody issues. Section 31A pertains to visitation and custody in the best interest of a child and covers abuse of parent or child.
The best interest of the child is the primary determining factor in awarding custody.
An abusive parent may not be awarded sole custody, shared legal custody, or shared physical custody. Custody arrangements must be in the best interest of the child. If one of the parents in a divorce or custody dispute has a history of being an abusive parent, then the court may deny custody or visitation or place restrictions.
The court may order supervised visitation for the abusive parent. The abusive parent may be ordered to attend a certified batterer’s treatment program. They are often ordered to refrain from alcohol and other controlled substance during and up to 24 hours before a scheduled visitation. They may also be restricted from overnight visitation. The court may impose any other condition to provide for the safety of the child.
Restraining orders are often issued when there is a request for protection and there is concern for the safety of one parent and/or a child. The mere existence of a restraining order (209A) does not serve as proof of abuse or define a parent as abusive. Evidence must be presented that shows a pattern or serious incident of abuse has actually occurred.
Child custody and parenting issues become problematic when the father, mother, or both fabricates claims of abuse in order to gain control of the children, or to gain leverage in some other aspect of the divorce. Therefore, it is important to get witness statements and investigate all of the facts thoroughly, whether you are seeking a restraining order or defending against one.
Divorcing couples where domestic violence or child abuse has or is occurring should contact a professional and experienced law firm to provide the best representation and to protect the best interest of the children and their own safety.