Court room

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts takes the best interests of children very seriously. As a result, when parents are deemed unfit to care for their children, the state will step in to ensure their children are placed in a safe and loving home. But what exactly does “unfit” mean? In this blog post, we’ll outline seven common ways courts in Massachusetts can determine that a parent is unfit to care for their child.

Abuse or Neglect

In Massachusetts, a parent can be deemed unfit if they have a history of abuse or neglect towards their child. This can result from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and neglectful behaviors such as failing to provide for the child’s basic needs. A pattern of behavior is critical in determining unfitness – isolated incidents may not be enough to prove that a parent cannot care for their child. However, any instance of abuse or neglect is concerning and should be addressed by the court to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. It is essential for both parents and the court to prioritize the child’s needs above all else in these situations.

Loss of Contact

In the case of parental alienation, where a parent has willfully and consistently neglected to visit their child, it can be deemed unfit parenting behavior. It has been shown that a lack of involvement can have long-term adverse effects on the child’s development and also send a damaging message about the value of relationships. Overall, willingly failing to visit a child for extended periods showcases irresponsible and unfit parenting behavior.

Foster Care

While the foster care system is often seen as a temporary solution for children whose parents are unfit to care for them, it can also become a long-term situation. In such cases, the child has either been in foster care for at least fifteen out of the most recent twenty two months and cannot be reunited with their families. if they are over four years old, or six out of twelve months if under four years old, and cannot be returned to their parents’ care.

Strong Bond With Caretaker

When a parent cannot provide proper care for their child, they may rely on a substitute caretaker to fill that role. In many cases, the child forms a strong bond with this caretaker and views them as their primary caregiver. If this bond is disrupted or broken, the child can suffer immensely emotionally and mentally.

Failure to Pay Child Support

When a parent willfully fails to pay child support, it is not only a financial burden for the custodial parent but also leaves the child without the necessary resources for their development and well-being. These actions demonstrate an unfit attitude towards parenthood and the responsibility that comes with it.

Parental Health

One aspect to consider when determining parental fitness is the parent’s physical and mental health. If a parent has a prolonged physical condition or disability, they may be unable to provide the necessary care for their child. Likewise, substance abuse or chronic mental illness can also impede a parent’s ability to care for their child properly. It is crucial to evaluate the impact of these factors on the parent’s ability to fulfill their responsibilities as a caregiver.


Being in prison can significantly impact a person’s ability to care for their child. An incarcerated parent may become unfit due to their inability to provide a stable home or constant supervision for their child. The children are often placed with other family members or in foster care in these cases. However, it is important during the process to recognize and address the needs of these children as well. Providing resources such as visiting opportunities and support for guardians can significantly improve the well-being of children with an incarcerated parent. It is also important to consider rehabilitation and reintegration programs to help prevent future separation from their child. Ultimately, addressing the needs of both the parent and child can benefit society.

As you can see, there are a variety of instances where the court may determine that a parent is unfit to care for their child. Both parents and the court need to be aware of these situations and take appropriate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. If you are concerned about your parenting ability or that of another parent, it is best to seek legal counsel to discuss your options. The welfare of the child should always be our primary concern. Call Sawin Law, P.C. at (781) 713-1212 to discuss your situation with our team.