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Fleshing Out Best Interest Standard

A recent SJC opinion made headlines by finding that a California registered domestic partnership was equivalent to a marriage, and that the biological mother and her “partner” were both parents to the child born during their partnership through in vitro fertilization.  The case, too, contains an excellent review of the standards of primary physical custody – which fleshes out somewhat the amorphous “best interests” standard.   In assessing best interests, the SJC reminds us, GL c.208 s.31 requires a court to consider “whether or not the child’s present or past living conditions adversely affect his physical, mental, moral or emotional health.” The judge also must also consider, among other things, the relative stability of the homes; whether one parent seeks to undermine the relationship a child has with another parent; and a parent’s ability to subordinate his/her needs to those of the children.  Again, it’s nothing new, but a convenient reminder that there’s more to the standard than “best interests.” Hunter v. Rose, 2012 Mass. LEXIS 889 (September 28, 2012)

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