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Legal Information: Massachusetts


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December 14, 2023

What are the exceptions to the “home state rule?”

If a custody proceeding has already started in a court of another state, and the case has not ended, a Massachusetts court may not be able to hear your case, even if Massachusetts is now your child’s “home state.”1

Even if Massachusetts is not your home state, a Massachusetts court may be able to decide your case (“exercise jurisdiction”) if:

  1. Your child is no longer living in Massachusetts but:
    • Massachusetts was your child’s “home state” within six months prior to the start of the custody proceeding; and
    • one of the child’s parents currently lives in Massachusetts;
  2. No other state has the power to hear your case (jurisdiction) and it is in the best interest of your child for the case to be heard in Massachusetts because:
  • you or your child have a significant connection to Massachusetts; and
  • there is substantial evidence available in Massachusetts concerning the child’s present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships.2

Note: If you and your child recently moved from Massachusetts to another state, generally you cannot file for custody in that new state until you have lived there for at least six months unless you qualify for “temporary emergency custody.” Until then, you or the other parent may be able to start a custody action in Massachusetts, as long as your child has most recently lived there for at least six months. Temporary emergency custody can be granted in a state that is not your child’s home state if it is necessary to keep your child safe from abuse or other danger.2 You can read more about temporary emergency custody in our Parental Kidnapping section - see Can I get temporary emergency custody?

1 28 U.S.C § 1738A(g)
2 M.G.L. 209B § 2(a)