Can a Parent Relocate with the Child in Massachusetts?
By: Rina Stark
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Can a Parent Relocate with the Child in Massachusetts?
Relocating with the kids is tough when you are married, but even more so if you are divorced or separated and share custody with the other parent. If you or your ex wants to move away – or, in legal terms, relocate – and take your children along, there are quite a few things to consider.
Can You Move Away with the Children in Massachusetts?
Typically, Massachusetts law does not prohibit a parent from moving away if the children are not coming along. However, the relocating parent will need the other parent’s permission if they wish to take their children.
Under Massachusetts’s family law, a parent cannot relocate outside the commonwealth or a substantial distance away within the commonwealth without the other parent’s permission or court order if:
- The child is a Massachusetts native or has resided in the commonwealth for the past five years; and
- The child is the subject of a child custody or visitation order stemming from a divorce or any other family law case.
Even if the other parent’s permission was not given, you might still be able to move away with the children if the judge in Massachusetts rules that relocation is in the best interests of the child.
The Legal Procedure for Relocating with the Child in Massachusetts
If you wish to move away with your child, you are required to give the other parent notice. Doing so allows the non-moving parent to have an opportunity to file a legal action against you.
If the legal action is filed, it will be up to the judge to either allow or block the relocation. When both parents agree to the relocation, it must be written in a formal agreement.
Although Massachusetts law does not provide any specific requirements for the type of notice you should give to the non-moving parent, it is advised to consult a Massachusetts family law attorney to get help.
Typically, the relocating parents should provide the non-relocating parent with written notice that includes the date you intend to move, the new address of residence, and the reason for moving away with the children.
You should provide notice to the other parent as far in advance as possible unless you have a valid reason to believe that giving a heads up would endanger you or your children. In that situation, you should contact a lawyer and go to the courthouse.
What if the Parents Do Not Agree on the Relocation?
There are cases when the moving and non-moving parent cannot agree about relocation. In that case, either parent can petition the court to ask for an order to block or allow the relocation with the kids.
After the petition is filed, the judge will schedule a hearing and may also require one or both parents to pay a bond. The bond, which will be returned after the judge issues a final decision, is paid to make sure that no one moves without a valid court order.
During the hearing, the judge will accept testimonies from both parents and consider evidence about the potential impact of the relocation on the child. Therefore, you should avoid moving away with your children if the other parent disagrees, and there is no court order.
Consult a Massachusetts family law attorney to help you persuade the judge to allow the relocation or, if you are the non-moving parent, argue that blocking the move would be in the child’s best interests.
What Do Massachusetts Courts Consider When Allowing or Blocking Relocation with the Kids?
When the non-moving parent is opposing the relocating parent’s efforts to move away with the kids, how do judges decide whether to permit or block the move?
The primary principle is the child’s best interests. If the relocation is not in the child’s best interests, the relocation will be blocked by the judge. When determining the child’s best interests concerning the relocation, the judge will consider the following factors:
- Would moving away with the child positively affect his or her life?
- Is the moving parent the only one who benefits from the relocation?
- Will the relocation negatively affect or alter the visitation schedule?
- How will one parent moving away with the child affect the child’s relationship with the non-moving parent?
- How would allowing or blocking the move affect the child’s emotional, psychological, and physical health and needs?
- Is there a viable way to develop a new custody and visitation order to allow the non-moving parent to maintain a close and strong bond with the child after he or she moves away?
What if the Moving Parent Has Primary Custody?
However, the judge will use a different standard for determining the child’s best interests if one parent has primary custody, or, in other words, lives and spends most of the time with the child. In that situation, the judge will apply the so-called “real advantage” standard since the child’s well-being is closely intertwined with that of the custodial parent.
The Massachusetts court will apply a two-part test when deciding whether to allow or block the custodial parent’s relocation with the child:
- Are there any “real advantages” for the move, such as economic benefits or pursuing a more profitable career opportunity? The moving parent’s desire to cut the non-moving parent out of the child’s life is not a “real advantage.”
- Would the relocation be in the child’s best interest?
Regardless of whether you are the one relocating or objecting the move, You may want to speak with a Massachusetts family law attorney at The Law Offices of Richard Mucci if you are considering relocating with the child or the other parent wants to move away and take the kids along. Get a free consultation about your particular circumstances, especially if the other parent does not agree with the move, or you oppose the moving parent’s efforts to take the kids along with him or her. Call at 781-729-3999 to order a free consultation about your case.