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Mason v. Coleman

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
850 N.E.2d 513 (2006)


Facts

James Mason (plaintiff) and Betsy Coleman (defendant) divorced in Massachusetts and shared joint legal and physical custody of their two minor children. Both Mason and Coleman remarried. Sometime later, Mason relocated to New Hampshire, but his new home was only approximately 17 miles from Coleman’s residence in Massachusetts. Weeks later, Coleman gave notice that she also intended to move to New Hampshire. Mason objected and filed a complaint for modification, seeking sole physical custody and a temporary order enjoining Coleman from relocating the children to New Hampshire. Mason was particularly concerned due to the fact that the original custody order provided that the children would attend school in the district of Coleman’s residence. The children were thriving in the Massachusetts school district, which was highly regarded as a successful school system. To the contrary, the proposed school system in New Hampshire was rated as below average. Coleman filed a counterclaim, requesting sole physical custody and a temporary order permitting the requested relocation to New Hampshire. A probate judge granted Mason’s request for a temporary order enjoining Coleman from relocating. Following a trial, the trial judge weighed the best-interest factors and determined that relocation was not in the children’s best interests. The judge did not award sole physical custody to either party but instead ordered that the parties continue the shared legal and physical custody arrangement. Coleman appealed, arguing that the refusal to authorize her request to relocate violated her right of freedom of movement pursuant to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cowin, J.)

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