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What Is the Difference Between Massachusetts's and Rhode Island’s Child Custody Law?

Due to Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s close proximity, it’s easy to assume that they are two parts of a whole. This very law firm operates in both markets. People sometimes regard Rhode Island as just an offshoot of Massachusetts. However, these assumptions could not be farther from the truth. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are two different states and have individual recognition within the Union. They have different rules, regulations, and expectations. These differences extend into all aspect of the law, including family law. You should familiarize yourself with your state’s custody laws, especially if you have family on either side of the border. The major difference between the two is the location of the child’s “home state.”

Rhode Island Home State

In Rhode Island, custody laws are determined and controlled by the state. Rhode Island maintains “continuing and exclusive jurisdiction” over the child’s custody. Even if both parents move to opposite corners of the country, they must abide by the Rhode Island’s child custody orders. Modifying these orders must be handled by Rhode Island alone, and jurisdiction of child custody can be changed only if parents prove that the family no longer has any connection to Rhode Island. This is how child custody is handled in every other state, except Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Home State

In Massachusetts, a child’s home state can easily change. Massachusetts is the only state with this policy, and it uses a “six-month rule.” If a child leaves the state (with their family, of course) and settles down in a new place for six months, child custody jurisdiction passes over to the new state. No one has to go back to court or file new paperwork. The new state will be responsible for enforcing custody rules, and Massachusetts is no longer involved.

Of course, all states have granular differences in how they handle child custody. One state has a specific rule that lasts for three weeks, while another’s lasts four weeks. This state considers 50 miles “long distance parenting;” that state says it’s 100 miles. If you and your former partner are living on either side of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border, consult a lawyer. They should have a grasp on how each state handles its minute details, especially if they practice in both markets.

If you have questions or concerns about child custody across state borders, call us for a free consultation. We can be reached at (508) 206-9900 or online here.