In Mason v. Coleman, 447 Mass. 177 (July 10, 2006), the SJC decided this month that in order for a parent who shares joint physical custody to move out of state, s/he must meet a higher standard than a parent who has sole physical custody. “While a joint physical custody agreement remains in effect, each parent necessarily surrenders a degree of prerogative in certain life decisions, e.g., choice of habitation, that may affect the feasibility of shared physical custody.” “Where physical custody is shared, the "best interest" calculus pertaining to removal is appreciably different from those situations that involve sole physical custody.” “No longer is the fortune of simply one custodial parent so tightly interwoven with that of the child; both parents have equal rights and responsibilities with respect to the children. The importance to the children of one parent's advantage in relocating outside the Commonwealth is greatly reduced.”
Applying the “best interests of the child” test, the court determined that the mother would not be permitted to move out of state.
More information on this case is available from the Boston Globe. More information on child custody issues is available at Mass. Law About Child Custody.