In Massachusetts, parents may receive physical and legal custody on a joint or sole basis. For those parents sharing custody under a true joint custody agreement, they may not be able to move outside the state and maintain their current agreement. Consulting the court to modify the order prior to moving may be the best way to move forward.

In Mason v. Coleman, the Massachusetts court refused to allow the mother, Betsy Shanley Coleman, to remove her children from the state that she shared joint legal custody with their father Jason R. Mason. The children in this case spent approximately equal time with both the father and the mother.

The state ruled that removing the children from the commonwealth was not in their best interests. The court recognizes both physical custody and legal custody are part of true joint custody where the parties share the responsibilities to the children. The idea is that the parents work together to do what is in the best interests of the children.

However, the Rosenthal v. Maney case a few years prior to Mason v. Coleman reversed the decision the judge had made not allowing the children to move with the mother to Rhode Island. In this case though, the mother had sole physical custody and did not have joint custody with the father.

The court acknowledges that often the parent not wanting the move files a motion for a custody claim in the court. The best interests of the child are of paramount concern for the court. Custody agreements when one parent wishes to move across state lines may be denied, granted or altered depending on the circumstances.