It’s a common assumption that mothers usually get custody of the children when parents split. But this isn’t always the case in Massachusetts, where both mothers and fathers have equal rights in child custody cases. While it can be somewhat challenging for fathers to gain custody in certain situations, working with an experienced family law attorney could help either parent make the best case for gaining custody.
There are No Gender Preferences in Massachusetts
Massachusetts law gives no preference to either parent based on gender. While courts tended to favor mothers in custody decisions in the past, the assumptions that led to those decisions are no longer used in Massachusetts courts.
Rather than looking at gender, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court will consider the capabilities and “fit” of each parent to determine custody. When a partner who seeks custody is not married to the mother of the child, that partner may have to prove they are entitled to parental rights.
How to Gain Child Custody in Massachusetts
Massachusetts courts use the “best interests of the child” standard to determine whether custody should be awarded solely to one parent, shared between both parents, or awarded to a third party. The court considers which parent can best provide for the child and weighs a number of circumstances in its decision.
Some of the factors the court may weigh in determining custody include:
- The financial capabilities of the parent
- Which parent serves as the primary caretaker
- Emotional and mental capabilities of the parent
- The specific needs of the child
- Where the child has resided for the prior six months
- Which arrangement best serves the child’s needs and interests
- The history of the family dynamic and parenting
There is no specific definition of what the best interest of a child means, although the court is supposed to “preserve the relationship between the child and the primary caregiver” if possible. Overall, a judge has a lot of discretion when determining custody in Massachusetts. A knowledgeable family law attorney could help demonstrate why various factors weigh in favor of granting custody to a particular parent.
Courts Weigh Parental Unfitness
Another issue that the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court will weigh carefully is whether either parent has committed any misconduct or abuse that would make them unfit to have custody.
Factors that the court considers when determining if a parent is unfit include:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Child abuse
- History of domestic abuse
- Dangerous mental health conditions
If any of these conditions change, custody arrangements may be modified based on the new circumstances.
Contact Experienced Divorce and Family Lawyers in Massachusetts
As part of the largest divorce and family law firm north of Boston, Massachusetts, the attorneys of Koiles Pratt Family Law Group have the skills and experience to help resolve your child custody issues. Whether you are looking to obtain or keep custody in Massachusetts, our lawyers are ready to help. To get started, contact 978-744-7774.