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Determining child custody

When Massachusetts parents are unable to make a child custody agreement on their own, the next step cold be a courtroom. The first standard a judge uses in making a custody decision is that of the primary caretaker. It is believed that a child bonds deeply with the primary caretaker and the preservation of that bond is crucial in ensuring healthy child development.

The judge uses a number of criteria to determine who has been the primary caretaker in the marriage or relationship. This includes who was responsible for meal preparation, extracurricular activities, health care, school conferences, leisure activities, and homework help. In some cases, the judge may find that these responsibilities were fairly equally split, and if that happens, then the next standard is the best interests of the child.

These criteria range from the child and parents' religious preferences to the child's relationship with other family members to the child's own wishes. A judge will look at how much stability a parent can provide, assess the mental and physical health of both parents, and consider the child's adjustment to the community and school. Whether or not the parent has a history of abuse or of excessive disciplinary measures may also come into play.

Custody issues may require some of the most difficult decisions in a divorce from an emotional standpoint. Parents may want to try to stay focused on the child's best interests just as the court would. However, although a judge does try to focus on the child, parents generally know the child best and may be able to make the best decisions for the family if they can do so amicably. This is also often better for the child's adjustment. Parents may want to consider mediation to resolve any conflicts in this area before turning to litigation.

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