Determining the “Best Interests of the Child” in Massachusetts Custody and Out-of-State Removal Actions

Judges in Massachusetts must make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. How does a judge decide what will be in the best interests of your child?

In March 2012, the Massachusetts Appeals Court highlighted three important criteria for determining the best interests of the child. See Prenaveau v. Prenaveau, No. 10–P–1608 (2012). First, stability and continuity in the child’s life should not be disturbed absent “compelling reasons.” Second, maximum involvement and participation of parents with joint custody in the lives of their child should be facilitated. Third, disruptive shuttling of children between parents should be reduced, wherever possible.

The court reviewed and rejected a custody determination by applying and balancing these three criteria, but emphasized stability. Both parents were seeking custody. Joint custody was complicated when the father’s job required him to move out of Massachusetts. Each parent wanted the children to live with him or her and attend school in their state.

The Appeals Court found that even the Trial Court’s finding of a “greater degree of the father’s cooperation toward involvement of the mother in the children’s lives” was not compelling enough to “overcome the law’s preference for continuity.” Accordingly, the Appeals Court ordered that the children of the divorced parents be returned to their mother’s Massachusetts home to attend school, with a visitation schedule that reduced “shuttling” between the parents’ homes.

Custody disputes can be very stressful. They may become even more difficult when one party seeks to move out of state. For assistance in advocating for the best interests of your child, or for more information, contact Hutchins Law, P.C.

The purpose of this article is to inform our clients of developments in the law and to provide information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or to assume a client relationship. The content of this article could be considered advertising under the rules of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Copyright © 2012 Hutchins Law, P.C. All Rights Reserved.