This petition for a writ of habeas corpus was brought pro se, under G.L.c. 248, § 1, by the father of three minor children (whom he purported to include as copetitioners) to have his visitation rights restored. The respondents are the mother of the children, a probate judge, a "family service officer" and a court psychologist. The petition was brought in the Supreme Judicial Court and transferred by a single justice of that court to the Superior Court where, after a hearing, it was dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The petitioner has appealed from an order allowing the respondents' motion to dismiss. There was no error.
The allegations of the petition (and documents appended thereto) are imprecise, but a fair distillation of
In May, 1973, the children's mother was granted a decree nisi of divorce from the petitioner and was given custody of the children. The petitioner was allowed visitation rights to be exercised under supervision of a "family service officer,"
In the circumstances of this case, habeas corpus is not an appropriate remedy to test the suspension of the petitioner's visitation rights.
The petitioner appears to be asserting an immutable right to association with his children. There is no such right. Parents' rights must yield to the best interests and welfare of their children. Although parents are the natural guardians of their minor children, their obligation to their children is in the nature of a trust reposed in them subject to their correlative duty of care and protection. The parents' right to associate with their children may be terminated by their failure to discharge those obligations. See Purinton v. Jamrock, 195 Mass. 187, 201 (1907); Tornroos v. R.H. White Co. 220 Mass. 336, 342 (1915); Richards v. Forrest, 278 Mass. 547, 553 (1932).
The obvious vulnerability of children to mistreatment at the hands of adults places a continuing responsibility upon the court in custody cases. Pur-Shahriari v. Pur-Shahriari, 355 Mass. 632, 633 (1969). Orders for the care and custody of children are considered interlocutory in nature, subject to revision based upon changing circumstances and directed to the best interests of the children. G.L.c. 208, § 28. Oliver v. Oliver, 151 Mass. 349 (1890). Hersey v. Hersey, 271 Mass. 545, 549-550 (1930). Jenkins v. Jenkins, 304 Mass. 248, 250-251 (1939). Buchanan v. Buchanan, 353 Mass. 351, 353 (1967). McMahon v. McMahon, 1 Mass.App.Ct. 647, 648-649 (1973). Fuller v. Fuller, 2 Mass.App.Ct. 372 (1974). See Petition of the New England Home for Little Wanderers to Dispense With Consent to Adoption, 367 Mass. 631, 636-637, 638-642 (1975). Of necessity, much must be left in these cases to the discretion of the trial judge. Jenkins v. Jenkins, 304 Mass. at 250. Palmer v. Palmer, 357 Mass. 764 (1970). Adoption of a Minor (No. 2), 367 Mass. 684, 688 (1975).
In view of our decision with respect to the propriety
Order dismissing petition affirmed.