You are here

Head’s up — MassLegalHelp is getting a new look!

At the beginning of March, we will be relaunching this website with a brand-new look. You may notice some things moved around, but our main content will stay the same. We hope the improved design will make it easier to find what you are looking for.

 

How does the judge decide which parent should have custody?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed July 2023

Judges must decide custody based on “the best interests of the child." The “best interests of the child” law requires courts to focus on the child's needs and not the parent's needs. The law requires courts to give custody to the parent who can meet the child's needs best1.

Judges look at many things to see what is in your child's best interest:

  • Will your child have a safe place to live?
  • Will your child be well-fed and clothed?
  • Will your child be supervised enough?
  • Will your child get enough emotional support?
  • Which parent has been taking care of your child?
  • Does either parent abuse your child?
  • Does either parent abuse drugs or alcohol?
  • Does either parent expose your child to domestic violence?

Endnote

1 The law says that in making an order or judgment concerning the custody of children, "the rights of the parents shall, in the absence of misconduct, be held to be equal, and the happiness and welfare of the children shall determine their custody. When considering the happiness and welfare of the child, the court shall consider whether or not the child's present or past living conditions adversely affect his physical, mental, moral, or emotional health." General Laws, Chapter 208, section 31.

 

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am - 12pm and 1pm - 4pm