Massachusetts Child Custody: The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Massachusetts Child Custody: The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard


One of the most important issues decided during divorce is child custody. The outcome will impact your family for years to come. There are different types of child custody, and the specific arrangements that will be ordered by the court are unique to each family.

Massachusetts Child Custody Laws

In Massachusetts, child custody is determined by the “best interests of the child” standard. This does not mean that the court picks who is the best parent. Instead, the judge focuses on the child, looks at all the facts, and tries to predict the best outcome despite the difficult circumstances of the divorce. There is no exact definition for the best interests of the child because each case is unique. What is best will always depend on the particular needs of the child and the specific family dynamics.

The law says that the rights of both parents are equal. As a result, it is presumed that a custody arrangement that provides ample time with both parents is best for the child. Typically, special circumstances are required before the court will grant sole custody to one parent.

Factors Massachusetts Courts use to Decide Child Custody

Even though there is no exact standard used to determine the best interests of the child, Massachusetts family court judges weigh several factors. The health, safety, and well being of the child are always the primary considerations. The following are simply a few examples. The judge has broad discretion and can consider any relevant information regarding the ability of a parent to care for the child.

 The Needs of a Child

The court will consider the needs of the child. Each child’s needs are different, so here’s what will be considered during the Massachusetts child custody process:

  • Does the child have any physical or mental health needs?
  • How can the child’s routine be preserved?
  • What are the child’s ties to school and the community?
  • Does the child have any special relationships with extended family or half-siblings?
  • If a child is old enough, sometimes the child’s preference can be considered.

The Abilities of Parents to take Care of a Child

The court will also consider the abilities of both parents to take care of the child. Here are the factors that Massachusetts family court judges will weigh into the decision:

  • What is the mental and physical health of each parent?
  • Who has historically been the primary caretaker?
  • How demanding is a parent’s work schedule or other commitments outside the home?
  • How willing is a parent to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent?
  • Can the parent provide a positive home environment?

In Conclusion:

Since there are so many factors a judge can consider in determining the best custody arrangement for a child, it is important to have an experienced family lawyer advocate on behalf of you and your child. At Fraier & Maillet we will effectively represent your interests and advocate for your child’s best interests.

Written by Jane A. Fraier