Moving your children after a Massachusetts divorce

In our increasingly mobile society, fewer people live in the same community where they grew up. During a marriage, it is common to move from a home state after a spouse receives a career advancement opportunity across the country.

After a divorce, roughly a quarter of custodial parents will seek to move away from where they lived with their spouse. Motivations often include being closer to family and friends, a better job offer or a superior school district. A former spouse may object to a move from Massachusetts to California that would restrict his or her visitation with the children.

When there is no agreement between the parents on a relocation request, then a parent generally must seek approval from the Massachusetts courts. In deciding a relocation request, the court needs to answer two questions:

  • Does the parent who wants to move have a good reason to support the move?
  • Is the move in the best interests of the child?

The court will review how the move will benefit the child, as well as the parent. The Commonwealth statute seeks to protect the rights of the noncustodial parent while balancing the right of the custodial parent to pursue a better life.

A real advantage

Some examples of a real advantage include greater support from family, a better income or more stable employment situation or some other good reason for wanting to move from the state. In one Massachusetts case, a mother was allowed to move back to New York, because she felt unhappy and isolated, wanted to move closer to relatives in New York and had a new job lined up. In addition, a comparison of school districts and the cost and quality of living between the two places may also support a request.

On the other hand, when there is an indication that the move is designed to limit the amount of time a child spends with a non-custodial parent the court generally denies the request.

Best interests of the child

When a good reason exists to support the move, then the next question relates to whether the move is in the best interest of the child. A guardian ad litem may assist and make recommendations to the court after speaking with the parents and children affected.

Timing a move during the summer months for a school-aged child may ease the transition. Parents should focus on the positives of the move. Organizing a tour and introduction to teachers at a new school also can help.

If you are a custodial parent seeking to move to another state, consider whether your former spouse will agree to a relocation request. A Massachusetts family law attorney can assist with negotiations and any necessary litigation.