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Legal Information: Massachusetts


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Laws current as of
December 14, 2023

If I have moved away from the home, leaving my children with the abusive parent, will this affect my chances of gaining custody?

It is hard to say how each individual judge would consider a situation where a parent fled the home but left the children behind. On one hand, it is likely that the judge will look at who has been the primary caretaker for the child, which means the judge will look to see who has been and who is currently spending the most time with the child, feeding the child, taking the child to school, etc.1 If you have moved away from your child for a significant period of time before filing for custody, it may be harder to argue that you have been the child’s primary caretaker.

However, it is important to remember that a judge will take into account past or present abuse committed by one parent against another parent.2 Therefore, if you have moved away to escape abuse, you can explain to the judge why it was necessary for you to leave the home where your children currently live.

Note: Before leaving the home without your children, we strongly suggest that you consult with a lawyer if possible for advice on how this could affect your chances of getting custody based on the facts of your particular situation.

1 Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants: Chapter 9: Child Custody, 3rd Edition (2018)
2 M.G.L. 208 § 31A