For most couples going through a child custody dispute in Massachusetts, the courts will likely order shared custody between the parents. Shared custody offers families a variety of benefits, including respite time for both parents and a broad base of social and emotional support for the children in the family.

However, when a parent has previously engaged in abusive behavior toward their spouse or children, that can be a valid reason for one parent to request sole custody for the protection of the children. Protecting your children can involve asking for full custody and showing the courts how shared custody could put them in unnecessary danger.

You need something to convince the courts that abuse has happened

Massachusetts family law is very clear about the fact that documented abuse that targets the children or occurs in front of them can impact how the courts rule in custody proceedings. The courts will consider any serious incidents of abuse, which can include threatening the children with serious bodily injury or actually causing an injury.

Simply making the claim that your spouse engaged in abusive behavior likely won’t be enough to convince the courts to award you sole custody. You need some kind of corroborating evidence or documentation. From statements made by physicians, therapists or teachers to medical records and police records, there are many potential ways for a parent to document the abusive actions of their spouse.

To better protect your children, you can also ask the court to limit your ex-spouse to supervised visitation only. The courts can even order your ex-partner not to consume alcohol or drugs before (or during) visitation or meet other safety obligations that will protect your children’s interests.