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The unique challenges of relocation disputes

Sharing custody of a child is hard enough when two parents live in the same state. When one parent wishes to move to another state with the child, a new set of challenges arises.

Under Massachusetts law, a parent must request permission to move out of the state with the child. The other parent has a right to object, and rightfully so. Moving away can have major impacts on the other parent's ability to spend time with the child. Depending on the parents' incomes and how far away the parent wants to move, exercising parenting time with the child can also be costly. 

Unless the parents reach an agreement, the dispute is often left for the courts to resolve. Massachusetts courts must consider a number of specific factors when determining whether to grant a parent's request to relocate.

 As with any other custody dispute, the courts first consider the best interests of the child. This standard requires courts to evaluate both the positive and negative impacts the move will have on the child. In particular, the courts evaluate how the move will impact the child's emotional or physical needs and the child's relationship with the noncustodial parent.

 The courts also recognize that the well-being of the custodial parent can affect the child's best interests. As a result, the courts evaluate whether the move will improve the quality of life for both the parent and the child. Factors such as employment prospects, available support of family and friends, and the anticipated living situation in the new state are all things that the courts consider.  

 When parents share joint physical custody and one of the parents wants to move out of the state, that parent has an even higher hurdle to overcome. Because relocation impedes a parent's ability to have frequent contact with the child, it is much more difficult for a parent to show why relocating is in the child's best interests. Courts very much favor situations that foster a child's relationship with both parents.

 Relocation is a unique custody issue. There are many different variables, which can make the issue even more challenging. If you are dealing with a relocation dispute, it may be helpful to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

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