Removal of Children

In the family law context, the term “removal” refers to one of the parents’ attempt to permanently move out of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the children.  Neither parent can be prevented from moving to another state or country; however, except for very limited and extreme circumstances, the children can only move with consent of the other – non-moving – parent or pursuant to the order of the Court that would permit the children to move.

Children To Whom Removal Law Applies
In case where the parents are or were married, Massachusetts law regarding removal of the children applies to minor children born in Massachusetts or children who have resided in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for at least five years.  Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, Section 30.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Can Lose Its Authority To Hear A Removal Case
In situations where the child lives outside the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for more than six months, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may lose jurisdictional authority over the child and the matter might be left to the control of the other state where the child resides throughout the year.

Deciding Removal Cases
Removal cases are frequently considered some of the most difficult decisions for a judge to make because he or she is required to decide where it would be best for the child live often at the price that the other parent suffers a significant strain on his or her relationship with the child.

Children Born to Parents Who Never Married
Massachusetts law makes it clear that unmarried parents still require the other parent’s consent or the court’s permission to move a child from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Requirements to Remove a Child from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Custodial parents must obtain either the consent of the other parent or permission from the court to remove a child from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  In cases where the parent desiring to move holds sole physical custody of the child, that parent must demonstrate that is a move would create a clear advantage for him or her.  Another requirement for a child to move is a finding by the court that the move would be in the child’s best interest.

Before taking any significant steps to move a child out of state, it is a wise idea to discuss this situation with a former spouse and determine whether the former spouse will consent to move.