Can I Move Across State Lines and Retain Custody?

An offer for a new job in another state, a need to be closer to extended family, or simply a desire for a fresh start can all be great reasons to relocate. However, if you share children with an ex-partner, you may be wondering whether you can move across state lines and still retain custody.

If you have primary or shared custody in Massachusetts, it may be possible to relocate to another state with your child under certain circumstances. To ensure that you maintain custody of your child, you must know what those circumstances are and what you need to do before moving. Because O’Connor Family Law has over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, we could help you determine if it is possible for you to relocate with your child.

The Requirements to Relocate Across State Lines

Generally, you will need one of two things to relocate out of state and still retain custody. First, if you intend to move out of the Commonwealth with your child, you must give their other parent notice to give them the opportunity to consent or object to the child’s move.

Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208 §30, if your child is old enough (as determined by a court) to consent to a move, they must agree to relocation before you can move with them across state lines. If your child is not of consenting age, their other parent must consent to the proposed move in writing. If your child or their other parent does not consent to your relocation, your second option is to obtain a court order that allows for you to move the child out of the state against the other parent’s agreement.

What Factors Does the Court Consider when Deciding whether to Allow Relocation?

The factors a court may consider when determining whether relocating is in your child’s best interests depend on the type of custody arrangement you have prior to requesting the move. If you have shared or joint custody, the court will consider factors such as:

  • Whether the move will harm your child’s relationship with their other parent;
  • If your child’s quality of life will improve after the move;
  • How moving, or not moving, may impact your child’s physical or emotional needs;
  • The reason for the other parent’s refusal;
  • Whether a motive of the move is to lessen the other parent’s parenting time;
  • Whether a new visitation plan can be put in place that allows your child and their other parent to maintain a relationship.

If you have primary custody, the court will apply the ‘real advantage’ standard. The rationale behind this standard is that when a child spends most of their time with one parent, the child’s well-being becomes closely intertwined with that parent’s well-being. This standard involves a two-part test:

  1. Whether there is a good reason or ‘advantage’ for your move. An advantage can include an economic benefit, extended family assistance, or educational opportunities that cannot be found elsewhere. Your move must benefit not only you, but also your child. The purpose of moving cannot be to cut the non-relocating parent out of your child’s life.
  2. If you convince the court that your intended move does have a real advantage, it will then apply the “best interest” standard.

Under both analyses, the ultimate consideration is always what will most benefit your child. The bottom line is that if the move across state lines is not in your child’s best interests, the court will not likely allow it.

Speak with an Attorney about Moving Across State Lines while Retaining Custody of a Shared Child

Whether you have primary or shared custody, it is essential to obtain either the other parent’s consent or a court order allowing your child’s relocation out of state prior to your move. If you do not do this and move without permission or a court order, you risk the other parent seeking a court order for you to return the child and even losing custody. It is, therefore, essential to know and follow the legal requirements for relocation in Massachusetts.

Our dedicated attorneys at O’Connor Family Law can work through the legal process that can help allow you to move across state lines and retain custody. Additionally, if you need help contesting the relocation of your child, our firm is here to offer our support and guidance.

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