When embroiled in a divorce, children play an important factor in many decisions such as child custody and child support. As these issues can greatly impact a family, our family law attorneys educate parents and soon-to-be-divorcees on how the court views these important issues. Child custody decisions can create a lot of tension for children, divorcing parents, and the overall family dynamic. Our family law attorneys know how daunting this can be. Possibly, you won’t be seeing your children every day, and the amount of time you have with them is becoming uncertain. In this post, we will be highlighting the “best interest of the child” standard. This is an integral part of the court’s decision and a common standard at the heart of child custody decisions.

Fact-specific approach:

If you and your former spouse are unable to reach an amicable agreement regarding child custody, your family’s future will be determined by a judge. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the judge takes a deeper look into a child’s lifestyle and what would be best suited for the child when making this decision. Instead of investigating what may be best for each parent, the judge solely focuses on the child. As every divorce is different, courts view the “best interest of the child” standard on a case-by-case basis. Because children have different needs, and family situations are wide-ranging, the courts of the Commonwealth take a fact-specific approach when determining what is in a child’s best interest.

Massachusetts courts and law encourage a custody arrangement where the parents share both legal and physical custody. Physical custody determines where a child’s primary residence is, and legal custody involves important decisions made for a child. These can be decisions regarding medical issues, religion, and education, just to name a few. Generally, if one parent is granted sole custody in either of these areas, it is because the court finds that financial instability, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other toxic situations negatively impact a child’s upbringing. As the primary caretaker for a child, a sole custodian will make all of the major decisions for the child.

What are the factors?

As a parent, you may be wondering what factors go into what the court defines as the “best interest of the child,” since it is so fact-specific. The standard is not exact. The court does look at several areas, however, in determining what is in the best interest of your child. Factors include a child’s health, safety, and general quality of life. If your child has a physical or mental disability, the court looks to the best solution for the child’s situation. Also, if you have multiple children, it is likely the judge will want to keep siblings together; the court often wants to keep families intact.

The court generally focuses on the child; however, your ability to parent is crucial in the determination of what is in the best interest of the child. As noted above, the court does not want to place a child in a toxic situation. More extreme issues such as substance abuse and criminal activity will be examined. However, the court can also look into your physical and mental health, work schedule, parenting style, and the type of home environment you provide. If the court finds that these factors positively impact your child and their development, it may be more likely to provide you with custody.

Preparation is key:

As these are incredibly broad areas, the judge can choose to determine this standard as he or she sees fit. Often, this information allows the judge to make a decision based on how fit a parent is to be a stable, supportive caretaker for their child. There are many angles a judge can take regarding what is in your child’s best interest; our family attorneys can help you prepare for this area of divorce to do what is best for your children. As you will likely need to testify to a judge why you should get custody, our attorneys will adequately prepare you so you are awarded custody of your child.

If you need more information surrounding the best interest of the child standard, child custody, or family law generally, or you are looking for an experienced Newburyport or Andover divorce lawyer or family law attorney, you may schedule a free consultation with our office. Call 978-225-9030 during regular business hours. Or, complete a contact form and we will respond to your phone call or submission promptly.