Massachusetts Parenting Schedule Guidelines

Your parenting schedule (called a visitation schedule in other states) dictates where your child lives and how much time they spend with each parent.

A written schedule is required for every custody case. You can add a visual calendar for clarity.

If you settle with the other parent, you will include these items in the parenting plan you ask the judge to approve together.

If you go to trial, include them in the parenting plan you propose to the court by yourself. The other parent will also make a proposal, and the judge will select one schedule or combine aspects of both when deciding the final judgment.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Choosing a type of schedule

There are two physical custody arrangements in Massachusetts. When creating a schedule, you must pick one.

With shared physical custody, the child lives with each parent at least 40 percent of the year (146 overnights). If both parents are competent, judges prefer this arrangement.

With sole physical custody, the child lives with one parent more than 60 percent of the time. The other parent often still has parenting time, unless the judge believes it isn't in the child's best interests. The child may even visit the noncustodial parent for multiple days at a time, but they're with the custodial parent significantly more.

Once you select a type of physical custody, make a schedule that meets its parameters and your family's needs.

Common schedules

3-4-4-3: The child spends three days with one parent, then spends four days with the other parent. After this, the schedule switches, with the first parent getting four days and the other parent getting three. This is a 50/50 schedule, meaning each parent gets 50 percent of the time.

2-2-3: Another 50/50 schedule option, the 2-2-3 schedule has your child spend 2 days with one parent, 2 with the other, and then 3 with the first. It switches the next week.

Every weekend: The child spends weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other parent. This is a 70/30 schedule suitable for sole physical custody arrangements.

Other schedule arrangements

Supervised visitation is often necessary when a child is at risk when left alone with a parent. Massachusetts has supervised visitation centers — neutral sites where a parent's interactions with their child are monitored by professionals.

In addition to requiring supervised visitation, courts may reduce a parent's time with their child or even eliminate visits altogether if the parent has a history of abuse or addiction.

Details to include in your schedule

Your custody schedule must specify:

  • If/how parents will split time with the child on weekdays
  • If/how parents will split time with the child on weekends
  • If/how parents will split time with the child during school breaks
  • If/how parents will split time with the child on holidays and special occasions
  • If/when each parent can take the child on vacation

Specify that the holiday schedule overrides the regular parenting schedule. If you make a different schedule for summer break or other school breaks, state what will happen when holidays conflict with it.

Parents should also state how vacation time will work: How long can a trip last? Can it overlap with the other parent's scheduled time? Can the child miss school? How soon does the other parent need to be notified?

A couple more tips for writing your schedule:

  • Use specific language.
  • "The child shall visit Dad after school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific time."

  • Make sure it works for any year.
  • "Mom gets Thanksgiving Day in odd-numbered years, while Dad gets Thanksgiving Day in even-numbered years."

The easiest way to make a schedule

If you're like most parents, creating a residential schedule will feel daunting. How do you write something that meets legal requirements and doesn't leave any loose ends?

The Custody X Change app makes it easy. Either customize a schedule template, or click and drag in your custody calendar to make a schedule from scratch.

Then watch a full description appear in your parenting plan.

The combination of a visual and written schedule means your family will have no problem knowing who has the child when. Take advantage of Custody X Change to make your schedule as clear and thorough as can be.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Massachusetts Schedule Now

Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

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