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After settling into a comfortable co-parenting relationship, your former spouse announces plans to move from Massachusetts along with the children. Of course, you have concerns about how the distance will affect your relationship with your kids as they grow up.

Fortunately, you have legal options when you share custody and your ex-partner plans an out-of-state move.

Consent required

If your child is younger than 18 and has lived in Massachusetts for at least five years, he or she must consent to the move if the court determines sufficient emotional maturity to do so. Otherwise, both parents must consent to any out-of-state move.

The objection process

The parent requesting the move must provide you with official notice of these plans. Although the state does not specify the form of this notice, you should expect it to be in writing and include the proposed date, address and reason for the move.

If you receive such a notice, visit the family court in your district and file an order blocking the move. The judge will schedule a hearing about the issue and may require the other parent to pay a bond to ensure he or she will not move without legal permission.

What to expect at the hearing

Both parents will have the opportunity to provide testimony arguing for or against the move. If you share joint custody, the judge will only allow the move if it is in the child’s best interest, based on factors such as the following:

  • The child’s expected quality of life before and after the move
  • The adverse effects of the move including distance from the parent who remains in Massachusetts
  • The parents’ interests in allowing or not allowing the move
  • The potential impact on the child’s physical and emotional development

If the other parent has sole physical custody and you have visitation, the judge will also consider these factors:

  • His or her desire to relocate with a new partner
  • The economic advantage of a move, such as a better job
  • The availability of extended family in both locations

Either way, you have the right to maintain a relationship with your children. You may also have an attorney present at the hearing to advocate on your behalf.