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Do both parents need to agree to a move if they share custody?

Co-parenting is a family scenario often fraught with challenges. The adults in the family may have had an adversarial relationship following a breakup or divorce. Every custody exchange could see tempers flare and disputes arise. Even when parents typically find ways to cooperate with one another, certain parenting matters could lead to disruptive disputes.

For example, if one parent wants to move, their decision to relocate could have major implications for the relationship that the other adult maintains with their shared children. A relocation that is a significant distance from the marital home or out of state could interrupt custody arrangements and prevent someone from regularly spending time with their children.

Relocations often require parental cooperation

According to Massachusetts state law, any relocation that takes a parent and the child subject to the custody order out of the state likely requires pre-approval from the other parent. In some cases, parents may have included terms in their initial custody orders or parenting plans that impose other restrictions on relocations. A parent might require approval from their co-parents if the move is more than 50 miles away or if it takes them into another county or school district.

It is usually necessary to communicate ahead of time with the co-parent about changes to plans that could affect the current custody schedule. If a co-parent is uncooperative and does not agree to the relocation request, the parent proposing the move may need to prepare to go to court. They can request a modification of their existing custody order that takes their move into consideration.

A judge hearing such cases must consider the current family circumstances, the reasoning behind the move, the impact it may have on custody arrangements and, above all else, the best interests of the children. Judges often approve relocation requests provided that there are benefits for children in the family. Enrollment in better school districts, access to other family members and improved economic circumstances are all scenarios that might lead to a judge agreeing that a relocation could be good for the children.

Those thinking about a move need to review their custody order and brush up on state law to better ensure that they do not make any mistakes that could affect their parental rights. Properly preparing for a relocation request can improve a parent’s chances of successfully changing their current parenting arrangements or, depending on their child’s best interests, striking down a co-parent’s relocation attempt.