Best interest factors in Massachusetts custody cases

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2023 | Child Custody

When parents in Massachusetts divorce, child custody is a common concern. The court determines custody arrangements based on the child’s best interests.

Parents can create a custody plan that promotes the child’s overall well-being by understanding the best interest factors.

Parental fitness

The court assesses the parental fitness of each spouse. Fitness includes factors such as mental and physical health, stability and the ability to provide a safe, nurturing environment.

Child’s preference

The court may consider the child’s preference when determining custody arrangements. The child must be of sufficient age and maturity to express their desires. However, the court weighs this factor alongside other considerations. This ensures that the child’s preference aligns with their best interests.

Parental involvement

The court evaluates the level of each parent’s involvement in the child’s life. Factors include the willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent, as well as involvement in education, extracurricular activities and overall participation.

Stability and continuity

The court considers the stability of each parent’s home environment. The judge evaluates the impact of potential changes on the child’s well-being. Continuity in the child’s education, community and relationships also plays a role.

Co-parenting ability

The court assesses the ability of parents to communicate, cooperate and make joint decisions in the child’s best interests. A demonstrated ability to co-parent effectively can positively influence custody determinations. Research published by the Journal of Family Psychology found that parental conflict after divorce can impact children’s self-esteem and self-blame.

History of abuse or neglect

Instances of abuse or neglect significantly impact child custody decisions. The court prioritizes the safety and well-being of the child and may limit or restrict custody for a parent with a history of abusive behavior.

Relocation plans

If one parent plans to move, the court evaluates the potential impact on the child’s relationship with the other parent and the stability of the child’s life. The relocating parent may need to present a compelling case justifying the move in the child’s best interests.

Each parent can propose a parenting plan for review during custody negotiation. The court will consider the logistics of the plan and its alignment with the child’s best interests to make a final custody determination.