How divorce impacts custody arrangements for adopted children

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Child Custody

In Massachusetts, courts handle custody arrangements for adopted children during divorce proceedings with the same standards and procedures as for biological children.

The main goal remains the best interests of the child, regardless of their adoptive status.

Best interests of the child

When determining what best serves the child’s interests, courts consider various factors. These include the child’s age, health and emotional ties with each parent. Judges also consider each parent’s ability to provide stability, meet the child’s needs and foster a positive relationship with the other parent. The child’s own preferences may influence decisions, especially for older children who can articulate their desires.

Types of custody

Massachusetts law recognizes two main types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody pertains to where the child lives, while legal custody involves decisions about the child’s education, health care and other significant matters. Courts can award sole or joint custody in both categories. In joint custody arrangements, parents share responsibilities, though the actual time each parent spends with the child can vary.

Special considerations for adopted children

While the legal framework does not differentiate between adopted and biological children, certain emotional and psychological aspects unique to adopted children come into play. For instance, maintaining continuity and stability is often even more critical for adopted children, who may have experienced prior disruptions in their family life. Courts may prioritize arrangements that minimize further emotional stress.

Custody evaluation process

During divorce proceedings, the court may order a custody evaluation to better understand the family dynamics and the child’s needs. This evaluation typically involves interviews with both parents, home visits and consultations with the child. Evaluators also review the child’s history, including any relevant details about the adoption process that may affect their current situation.

Parental agreements and mediation

Parents are encouraged to reach an agreement on custody through mediation, which allows them to craft a parenting plan tailored to their child’s unique needs. If parents can agree, the court will usually honor their plan if it serves the child’s best interests. However, if they cannot agree, the court will make a decision based on the evidence presented.

While the specifics of each case vary, the overriding objective in Massachusetts is to ensure a custody arrangement that provides the greatest benefit and least disruption to the child’s life.