When your marriage ends, child custody can be a contentious issue. This is especially true when one parent wants to leave the state or even the country with the children while the other parent plans to remain in Massachusetts.

Whether or not your ex-spouse can move away with the children depends on your custody agreement and other factors.

The need for consent

When your child was born in and/or has lived in Massachusetts for five years, he or she must consent to any move out of state. If the child is not old enough to provide consent, both parents must agree to the move unless the court determines otherwise. Because the statute does not state an age of consent, the judge decides on a case-by-case basis. This law applies to children of both married and unmarried parents.

Contesting a planned move

If the divorce is currently in process, your spouse can request sole physical custody and permission to move in his or her divorce petition. If custody and visitation orders already exist, he or she must file a petition for removal of the child from Massachusetts.

In the case of a petition for removal, the other parent must notify you in writing of the planned move. You can file a petition to block the move and request bond if you believe that the other parent may move with your child without legal permission to do so.

When the parent planning to move has sole custody, he or she must show the court that the move is in the child’s best interest. The judge will consider the financial implications of the move as well as whether the child will have family and community connections in the new state or country.

If you share physical custody, the other parent must show that the advantages for the child of moving to another state trump the advantages of a strong, ongoing relationship with both parents.