After a divorce, your former spouse may plan to leave Massachusetts and start a new life. If you share custody of a minor child, however, the parent who wants to move must provide legal notice in most situations. 

Explore the Massachusetts laws regarding child custody and parental relocation and learn about your rights in this situation. 

The need for consent 

In a shared custody situation, the parent who wants to move out of state with a child when the other parent remains in Massachusetts must have the child’s consent. This rule applies if your child was born in Massachusetts or has lived in the state for at least five years. The judge handling your case must also determine that the child is old enough to provide consent. Otherwise, you may consent to the move on the child’s behalf or contest the move. 

Contesting relocation 

When the child cannot consent to the move, the parent who is remaining in Massachusetts may contest the move. First, the parent who wants to move must petition the court for permission. You will receive an official legal notice and have the chance to respond asking the court to block the move. You can also request legal bond that prevents the other parent from leaving Massachusetts with your child without permission. 

If your child’s other parent has sole custody, he or she must simply show that the move will serve the child’s best interests to receive legal permission. The court will review the impact of the move on the child’s economic, familial, social and educational well-being. When you have shared custody, however, the parent who wants to move must also show that the benefits of the relocation would outweigh the advantages of living geographically near both parents. 

If you think your coparent may want to move away after divorce, consider addressing this point in your custody negotiation. You can also pursue sole custody to prevent the other parent from leaving the state.