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What Factors Do I Need to Consider Before Moving My Child Out-Of-State?
Family relocation cases involving a request to move out-of-state are no longer a rarity. But, in order to be successful, any request will need to be properly planned, prepared, and presented to the court with the assistance of a qualified family law attorney. With that said, here are several things you need to consider before planning to move out-of-state with your children.
Relocating with a child: The Law in Massachusetts
Relocation of a child in Massachusetts is governed by G.L.C. 208, § 30, which essentially says that you will need either the permission of the other parent or a court order if you want to move your child out-of-state. The purpose of this law is to preserve the non-custodial parent’s right to have a meaningful relationship with the child, while balancing that right with the custodial parent’s right to seek a better life for themselves and the child.
This child relocation law applies to anyone with a child that was either born in Massachusetts or who has resided in Massachusetts for five years, regardless of who filed the complaint or lawsuit, or whether a custody order has already been granted or not. Furthermore, the law applies equally to those who are not yet divorced, as well as, to those who are not married, but are involved in a paternity or custody case.
On the other hand, the law does not apply if you are not married and the other parent never signed the child’s birth certificate. This is because, in these cases, the law sees the child as having only one parent, who need not ask for permission from another parent or the state in order to relocate with their child.
Furthermore, if you are married and no custody order has been issued by the court, both you and the other parent share equal custody of the child. Therefore, either of you has the right to move out of state with the child as you see fit.
That said, it is always a good idea to get either the other parent’s permission or a court order before moving. This is because if within six months the other parent objects to the move, you may be ordered to bring the child back.
What Must Be Done To Leave The State With Your Child?
If the law, as described above, applies to you, you will need either permission from the other parent or a court before you can move out-of-state with your child. If the other parent agrees with the move, then you won’t need court approval. But, you should still sit down with the other parent and work out child custody and visitation and get everything in writing.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on the proposed move, you will need to file a formal request with the court. The other parent will then have an opportunity to formally object to the move and either of you may request a hearing to resolve the matter.
At the relocation hearing, you will need to prove and demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning more probable than not, that:
- The move is for a legitimate purpose, i.e. better employment opportunities, better family support, better educational opportunities for the child, etc.;
- The proposed move is reasonable in light of that purpose; and
- There are reasonable alternatives that can be made to facilitate the other parent’s visitation with the child. In other words, that there is still the ability to provide the child with substantial contact with the other parent after the move.
If these things can be proven, then the burden shifts to the other parent to show, also by a preponderance of the evidence, that the proposed move is not in the best interest of the child.
What Factors Will The Judge Consider When Deciding if I Can Move Out Of Massachusetts State with My Child?
Some of the things that the court will consider when deciding what is a legitimate purpose for the move and what’s in the best interest of the child are as follows:
- Whether or not the relocating parent has primary custody of the child. If the parents share joint custody equally, the relocating parent may first need to demonstrate to the court that it is in the best interest of the child for them to be granted primary physical custody.
- Each parent’s reason for seeking or proposing the move. Which reason serves the child’s best interest the most?
- The age and developmental level of the children. Some children in their developmental stage will be far more impacted by the move than others;
- The logistics of the proposed alternative parenting plan. It will be much more difficult to have regular and continuous visitation or time-sharing if the child is moved several hours away;
- The depth of the relationships between the child and each parent. If the child is strongly bonded to the non-relocating parent, there is a much greater chance that the child will be impacted negatively if the move is granted;
- The effect the move will have on the child’s relationship with the extended family. In other words, will the child be moving closer to or further away from grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and other relatives with whom they have a meaningful relationship?
Contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci
If the other parent objects, it can be difficult for you to convince the court to allow you to move out-of-state with your child. This is because you will have a significant burden of proving that the move will be in the best interest of the child. While there may be many good reasons why the move will be in your child’s best interest, proving them to a judge often requires the assistance of a seasoned family law attorney.
If you are thinking about moving out-of-state with your child, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts family law attorney before doing so. Contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci at 781-729-3999 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.