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What can happen if I remove my child from MA without getting permission from the other parent or judge?


You’re ready to start a new life in a different state. However, your child’s other parent lives in MA and you’re afraid to move out of state because you’re afraid that your plan will blow up and you’ll be required to stay in MA with the child. What to do?

Generally, if a parent moves out of state with a child without permission from the other parent or a judge and the other parent files in family court on this issue, the judge will likely order the moving parent to return to MA with the child.

In MA, any time a parent wants to move out of state with a child, this is called a “Removal” issue. Removal cases generally require planning, patience, and effective presentation to the court because they’re scrutinized carefully.

That the court analyzes these cases carefully makes sense because a child moving away from a parent is a significant change.

What should I do if I want to move?

The earlier you can identify that you want to move out of state, the better your chances of planning effectively. The more time you have to plan, the greater the likelihood that you’ll be allowed to go.

The best first step in your planning is to set up an assessment with a reliable family law attorney. Removal cases involve a specific legal analysis. A reliable family law lawyer can help you do an analysis on your specific circumstances to help you determine your odds of prevailing.

How does the court decide whether I can move?

There are different standards used to analyze removal cases. The analysis—and ultimately the burden you have to meet for removal to be allowed—depends on your parenting time arrangement with the other parent.

If you have the child the majority of the time—or sole physical custody—there’s more of a focus on how the move benefits you. The theory is that an improvement in your personal circumstances trickles down to the child.

On the other hand, if you share the parenting time about equally with the other parent—shared physical custody—your burden is higher. The benefit of the move to you specifically carries less weight, and the court focuses more overall on whether the move is in the “best interest” of the child.

The court considers a number of factors in determining whether to allow a parent to move out-of-state with the child. Some of the factors are: how involved each parent is in the child’s life, the distance of the new location, education opportunities for the child, the moving parent’s motives, job opportunities, the location of other family members, how the move may affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child, social advantages, how the move will affect the child’s contact with both parents, the proposed home environment, effects of increased travel, and other factors.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider. Judges analyze the facts and circumstances of each case to determine whether the move is in the child’s “best interest.” Only an assessment with an experienced family law attorney can help you determine where the facts of your case fall on the removal spectrum.

For example, if you currently share parenting time with the other parent and you’re leaving the state because you found a new boyfriend online and want to leave MA with the child only because you want to live with your new boyfriend, your chances of prevailing on a removal issue aren’t great.

On the other hand, if the other parent barely has any parenting time with the child and you’ve identified a great employment opportunity in another state, where you also have close family members who would provide you support, your chances of being allowed to leave are much better.

And there’s everything in between.

Summary

In short, leaving the state without permission is a big risk. If the other parent rushes into court, you’ll likely be ordered to return. And your rash move may put you in a difficult living arrangement that may give the other parent more time with the child and make removal more difficult for you.

Decide as far in advance as possible when you want to move, invest in an assessment with a reliable family law attorney, work with that attorney to develop a plan, and execute. You will be allowed to leave the state with your child if it’s in your child’s best interest. But starting on the wrong foot—with an illegal attempt at removal—can make it much more difficult for you.

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