How In-State and Out-of-State Moves Affect Child Custody

Child custody and parenting plans are created with the children's best interests in mind, but many factors play a role in that determination. Parenting plans and child custody determinations affect children of married and unmarried parents alike.

Once a divorce, paternity, or custody case has been filed and orders have been entered by the Court, parents are likely to find that it is difficult to move to a new home far from where the parties resided prior to the court proceeding, as it is much more difficult to share custody of children when living far apart. Among other things, parents should consider the children's school district, the logistics of transportation between homes, children's activities, the impact of the move on the other parent's access to the children and the overall impact a move will have on the children.

Relocation will be especially difficult if the parties share custody equally or if one parent is the primary custodian and he or she is trying to move out-of-state. In Massachusetts, an out-of-state move with the children is referred to as removal. For the primary custodial parent or a parent with shared custody to move out-of-state, the other parent must consent or the parent seeking to move must get permission from the probate and family court.

Although the court will consider many factors, the main focus is the impact of a move on the child and whether or not the move is in the child's best interests. Although in-state moves are considered differently and the standard for removal may not specifically apply, if a parent were to move from Boston to Springfield and the other parent did not consent, the court's assessment is likely going to be the same as for an out-of-state removal.

At the law office of Linda Sternberg, Esquire, our attorneys work with parents in Boston and throughout Massachusetts who are engaged in child custody disputes and other family law matters. With over 35 years of experience, we can walk you through your questions and concerns regarding relocation and about the factors that may affect moving to a new home.

Do You Need to Change Your Custody Agreement When You Move?

The answer to this question depends largely on the terms of your prior order or judgment and the circumstances surrounding a move. There are many factors at play, and the main focus is always the children's best interest. If the move is going to have an impact on your current parenting plan and both parents are not in agreement, you will need to go to court to seek permission to relocate and to modify your parenting plan, or to seek to prevent the other parent from leaving.

Are you taking your children with you?

If you are moving without your children, you may still want to seek a modification to ensure you receive adequate parenting time after your move. If you are the primary custodial parent or you share parenting time equally, you will need to seek consent of the other parent or permission from the court.

Are you moving within the state of Massachusetts?

If you are moving with your children within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you may be allowed to do so without permission. However, if you move a significant distance away from the other parent within the state and the other parent objects to the move, you will likely need to return to court to work out a modification of the parenting plan and to seek permission for the move.

Are you moving out of the state?

If you are moving outside the state of Massachusetts, you must obtain consent from the other parent or return to court to alter your custody arrangement and get permission to relocate and remove the children from the state. You also must give the other parent adequate notice before you plan to move.

Is the other parent trying to move out of Massachusetts?

If the other parent is seeking to move out of state and you consent, you may want to go to court to modify your parenting plan to ensure that the parenting plan is in the best interests of the children, and that you are able to enforce your parenting time if necessary. If you are not in agreement, you may need to go to court to seek to prevent the other parent from leaving with the children. We can advise you regarding your rights and options in this difficult situation.

Explore All Your Options

Relocation and removal do not always mean you will lose time with your child after one or both parties relocate. Courts encourage joint parenting whenever it is possible, and parenting plans can be created or modified in many ways to ensure that both parents have adequate time with their children.

As your lawyers, we walk you through all your options so you can make the best decisions for you and your family. Give attorney Linda Sternberg a call at 617-454-4705 to discuss your concerns over the phone, or reach out online to schedule a consultation. We'd be happy to help you.