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Can one parent move with the children when they share custody?

A Massachusetts custody order is a court order that carries the full authority of the courts. Parents have to comply with the order established for their family or risk enforcement efforts that could include a reduction in their parental rights or even contempt of court charges.

As life moves on after divorce, parents who share custody may find themselves looking at a new job states away or starting a relationship with someone who lives in New Hampshire. Can one parent simply leave the state with the children when there is a custody order in place?

Relocations are subject to restrictions

Once there is a custody order in place, neither parent can make drastic changes that would impact the rights and relationship of the other without approval. Typically, parents have the option of either getting approval from their co-parent or from the courts. State law requires pre-approval in any scenario involving leaving the state with the children in a way not specifically addressed in the existing parenting plan.

For example, if one parent wants to move out of Massachusetts but will still be within a reasonable driving distance of the other parent, everyone may cooperate for an uncontested custody modification. Other times, it seems as though the suggested change would have a negative impact on the relationship the other parent has with the children, possibly by making regular custody exchanges and unrealistic option for the family.

Generally, the parents suggesting the move will need to show that it would be in the best interests of the children. A parent objecting to a relocation request might develop their argument by focusing on how the move would damage their relationship with the children, which could do significant long-term harm to their social and emotional development.

A parent attempting to convince the courts to approve a move might focus on the school district and their new neighborhood or on how a job opportunity might improve the family’s standard of living. If the matter goes to court, the outcome of the relocation hearing may depend on how the judge interprets the circumstances and what they believe would be best for the children.

Seeking legal guidance to learn more about the limitations on relocations and travel in a shared custody arrangement can help those who are trying to co-parent minor children in Massachusetts.