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How does the judge decide if I can move with my child?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts
Reviewed June 2023

The judge is most interested in your child’s best interest. Your child’s best interest includes protecting the relationship between your child and their other parent. Sometimes, the judge also looks at your need to move.

The judge looks at:

  • Your custody order.
  • If your custody order does not reflect the way you parent, or you do not have a custody order, the judge looks at the way you parent and your parenting responsibilities. The judge decides if the way you parent and your responsibilities are more like sole custody or more like shared parenting.


Keep a record of your day-to-day parenting time activities so you can show the judge each parent’s actual time with your child.

Sole physical custody

If you have sole physical custody of your child, or you parent like you have sole physical custody, the judge will let you leave the state with your child if:

  • the move is in the “best interests” of your child, and
  • there is a “real advantage” to your move.

See the different kinds of custody – sole custody.

Shared parenting

If you have shared physical custody or the other parent spends substantial time with your child, the judge only looks at the child’s “best interest.” The judge does not consider the custodial parent’s “real advantage” in moving.

The court wants to protect your child’s relationship with both parents. It is hard to get permission from the court to move if you share physical custody of your child, or if the other parent spends substantial time with your child. It is easier to move if you can show the move will not have a major impact on the other parent’s relationship with your child. For example, it may be easier to get permission from the court if you move to a state close to Massachusetts rather than far away.

Even if you have a shared parenting time order, it may be easier to move if the court sees that your parenting time is more like sole physical custody. The way you parent can look like sole physical custody if:

  • you clearly take on more parental responsibility, or
  • the other parent is not really involved in your child’s life.

See, How do I show the judge it is in my child’s best interest to move out of Massachusetts?

It does not matter:

  • Who filed the complaint, or
  • If the judge already granted you custody of your child

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