Massachusetts has adopted the 'best interests of the child" standard when called upon to determine with which of the parents the children or any of them shall remain or may award their custody to some third person if it seems expedient or for the benefit of the children.
"Best interests" determinations requires an inquiry into and a balancing of many factors related to the child's circumstances and the parent or caregiver's circumstances and capacity to parent, with the child's ultimate safety and well-being the paramount concern
Factors that the court considers in child custody disputes are:
- parent fitness
- abuse and domestic violence
- sexual abuse
- relative ability and willingness of each parent to care for the child
- history as a primary parent
- health of the parents
- health needs of the child
- lifestyle of the parents
- sexual conduct of the parents
- race not a factor
- harm to the child from divergent religious beliefs
- suitability of residence of parent
- same residence as siblings
- the custodial preference of the child
- domestic violence
- child's preference
Since the Massachusetts statutes are gender neutral it would be inappropriate to apply either the common law rule favoring the father or a presumption that the mother is the most fit custodian of the children of tender years in interpreting the best interests of the child rule.
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