Massachusetts Child Relocation Laws After Divorce

Divorce, custody, and visitation are legally binding court rulings. While parents have the right to relocate, taking children is another matter.

Under Massachusetts law, divorced parents are required to obtain permission from their child’s other parent or the court when relocating with their child. Relocating outside a specified location can impact custody and visitation rights.

If you or your ex is planning a move that will alter the terms of any agreements made during a divorce, the other parent must grant permission to relocate the child. In some cases, the final divorce judgment may forbid either parent from taking the child outside the bounds of a particular geographical distance.

Most states require parents to provide written notification to a former spouse regarding intent to relocate. The reason for this is to allow the other parent time to object. If your move will alter the relationship between your ex and the child, the other parent will likely object to a drastic move.

If the proper channels for obtaining permission to relocate a child are not followed, the offending parent may be held in contempt of court, which can lead to fines or even jail time. Therefore, it is crucial to resolve a relocation dispute prior to moving a child.

If a parent objects to relocation, a court hearing can be held to determine what is in the child’s best interest.

The court will first look at the current custody agreement when addressing relocation. For parents with shared or joint custody, the court will examine the following as part of a traditional best interests analysis.

  • If the child’s quality of life will be improved as a result of relocation and if the child will experience similar benefits as the parent from the move.
  • If any adverse effects will result from altering the current visitation schedule.
  • If the child’s relationship with the non-moving parent will be compromised.
  • The effect relocation will have on the child’s emotional, physical, or developmental needs.
  • Each parent’s interest in allowing or disallowing the move.

Cases involving a parent with primary custody will utilize the real advantage standard to the request for relocation. A parent with primary custody typically spends more time with the child, meaning the child’s well-being is more closely intertwined with parents. A two-part test is used to determine if relocating has a real advantage.

One, the court will assess if there is an advantage to relocating, for example, economic benefits or the availability of extended family. The judge will consider if the relocation has real benefits to ensure the move isn’t simply for the purpose of cutting off a relationship with the non-relocating parent.

Second, the judge will consider the best interest factors above to determine if the relocation is in the child’s best interest.

In some cases where a child is old enough to make an informed decision, the court may consider the child’s desire to relocate or stay with the other parent.

If you or your ex is planning on relocating with your child, our family law attorney can help you navigate potential pitfalls. Contact our office today to discuss the merits of your case.

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