When parents are seeking a divorce in Massachusetts, they must reach an agreement about numerous elements of the divorce before the dissolution can be finalized. Perhaps one of the most important decisions to make is how custody of a shared child will be split.

Parents are strongly encouraged to work together to reach an agreement about child custody and form a parenting plan; however, sometimes, a child custody battle is so contentious that parents cannot find common ground. When this is the case, the outcome will be put in the hands of a judge, who will be responsible for making a determination about child custody. Here’s what you should know about how judges make a determination about child custody in Massachusetts—

The Best Interests of the Child

Courts are required to act in the best interests of the child in all situations. This means that who has custody of the child is not about what the parents necessarily want or need; it’s about what’s best for the child in question. In order to determine the child’s best interests, a court will consider:

  • The child’s physical and emotional needs. One of the first things that the court will consider is the child’s needs. This might include looking at any special physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child, as well as any disabilities. The court will also consider how to best preserve the current routine of the child, the child’s ties to school and community, and other factors that may impact the child’s day-to-day life or long-term success. 
  • The parents’ physical and mental abilities. Next, the court will look at each parent and each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs. This might include a consideration of which parent has been the primary caretaker, the commitments of each parent related to work or other obligations, and the willingness and desire of each parent to not only care for the child, but also to foster a loving relationship between the child and the other parent. 
  • The wishes of the child. Depending on the age and maturity level of the child, the child’s preferences may be considered in making a determination about child custody. 
  • Any history of substance abuse, domestic abuse, or parental unfitness. In considering the child’s best interests, the court will consider whether or not either parent is unfit and unable to provide care based on a history of substance abuse, domestic abuse, or mental or physical disability or illness. 

Call Our Boston Family Law Attorney Today

If you are getting a divorce and are seeking custody of your child, you need a skilled family law attorney on your side. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our experienced Boston family law attorney can help you to understand the law, how a court determines the best interests of the child, and actions you can take to improve the outcome of your claim. To learn more, please reach us today at (617) 903-8955 or send us a message directly.