Get the Court’s Go-Ahead Before You Go
Custody of children can be one of the touchiest and most heated parts of a divorce settlement and of life after divorce. Any change to a visitation schedule, even a one-time change, is best made in writing if the situation between parents is acrimonious. Any permanent change, even when agreed to by both parents, should be filed with the court as a modification of custody.
Getting written acknowledgement and/or the court’s permission is not only a matter of being polite, or of bureaucratic efficiency. Unfortunately, the majority of child abductions in the United States are parental abductions, often by noncustodial parents or parents who wish for full custody in place of shared custody. The sudden inability to locate a child, or the belief that the child has been moved out of the area could cause a parent, in good faith, to report the child as kidnapped.
The need to protect one’s self and have the law’s backing for a custody change is even more pronounced in interstate custody disputes. Moving across state lines can make it prohibitively difficult for the other parent to exercise his or her custody or visitation rights. Moving across state lines without informing the other parent or seeking the permission of the court can also be interpreted as disrespect for the legal system, thus predisposing a judge in a future custody hearing to rule against the party responsible for the move.
Massachusetts Law Around Interstate Custody
In Massachusetts law, the relocation of a child out of the Commonwealth is referred to as “removal.”
In order to take a child out-of-state, even if one has primary custody of the child (i.e. the child lives with you more than fifty percent of the time), Massachusetts law requires either written agreement from the other parent or a court order. In fact, if a move within Massachusetts is substantial enough that it would interfere with the other parent’s exercise of custody and visitation rights—such as move from Boston to Springfield—it may also require written permission or a court order.
An important factor in interstate child custody disputes is the concept of jurisdiction. Massachusetts tends to define its jurisdiction differently than other states, so it is especially important to consult a skilled Massachusetts divorce lawyer before attempting to move to or from the Commonwealth.
Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208, Section 30 prohibits the removal of minor children who are native to Massachusetts or who have lived here for at least five years from the Commonwealth without the consent of both parents (i.e. the written agreement discussed above) or a court order. The law also requires that, if the child is old enough to speak on his or her own behalf, that the child consent to the move and the change to the custody arrangement.
Skilled Child Custody Attorneys
If you are contemplating an interstate move that complicates your custody arrangement, or if your co-parent has announced a move that violates your right to raise your child, call our office as soon as possible. With years of experience in handling child custody disputes, we can help resolve the matter in favor of your child’s best interest and your right to see your child.