Thinking about relocating the kids during a divorce? Think again. Massachusetts has stringent laws about moving your children.
As an individual, you always have a right to leave, as long as the kids aren’t going along. Whether you’re a parent wanting to relocate or a parent fighting the relocation of your children, you need to understand your rights.
A parent must obtain permission from the other parent to relocate a child outside the commonwealth or a great distance away within the commonwealth. Massachusetts laws refer to this as “removal” of the child from the state.
There is a stipulation, however. This rule only applies to children born in Massachusetts or those who have lived in Massachusetts for five years and are the subject of a custody and visitation order stemming from a divorce, custody, or paternity case.
When do I have to get permission to relocate with my child?
Massachusetts removal laws require parental consent or a valid court order to move a child out of state or a great distance away.
A parent wishing to relocate is required to provide the non-moving parent notice. While there are no specific requirements about the type of notice required, it is recommended that relocating parents provide written notice of the intended moving date, the new address, and the reason for the move as far in advance as possible.
Providing sufficient notice allows the other parent the opportunity to object to the move. In this case, your request to relocate will be presented to a judge who will allow or block the move.
In the event a parent fears providing notice would endanger the child, they should work with an attorney to seek aid from the court.
What if I remove my child from Massachusetts without permission?
The removal of a child from Massachusetts without getting the required permission or consent can result in hearings about the lawfulness of the removal and about which parent should have custody. Therefore, even in your absence, a child unlawfully removed may be required to enforce a custody decision by a Massachusetts judge.
How does the court decide whether to grant a move in the face of a parent’s objection?
Like any other court decision regarding children, a judge will rule based on what is in the child’s best interest. Simply put, if a move isn’t found to be in a child’s best interests, the judge won’t allow it.
Massachusetts has two different types of processes to determine the child’s best interest. If the parents have shared custody, the court will apply a traditional best interests analysis.
The judge will examine changes to the child’s quality of life, whether a new custody and visitation order will allow the non-relocating parent to maintain a close and enduring bond with the child, and if there are the adverse effects of altering the visitation schedule.
The courts may use a second process if one parent has primary custody. The judge will apply the “real advantage” standard in these cases. In these situations, the child’s well-being becomes closely intertwined with the parent’s well-being.
Contact our office today if you need help understanding your rights as a parent. Our skilled attorney is well versed in Massachusetts family law and can ensure your rights as a parent are protected.