An issue that often arises following a divorce of parents who share joint legal custody of their children is if the primary, physical custodian may be permitted to move outside Massachusetts with the children.
If the children are over 16 and want to accompany the custodial parent, then they will generally be allowed to do so. However, in the case of younger children, the physical custodian will either need to obtain the other parent’s consent or an order of the Court permitting such relocation.
In considering whether to permit a relocation without the non-physical custodian’s consent, the physical custodial parent will need to demonstrate that, (1) there is a good cause for seeking removal, which would result in a real advantage to the children and family unit; and, if so, (2) that the move is in the best interests of the children. The issue is governed by M.G.L. c. 208, §30.
A recent case decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court is in the matter of Murray v. Super, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 146 (2015). In this matter, the Court found that the custodial parent, the mother, met her required showing of proof. The factors considered by the Court were: that the mother, who sought to move to California, had remarried; that her husband was financially secure and could offer financial benefits that would trickle down to the children; and, that the new husband was unable to relocate due to his caregiving of his 12 year old disabled daughter.
Each case will be considered on its own, individual facts. If the Court permits relocation, it might well require that the moving parent will need to accept a reduction in child support and make reasonable accommodations regarding ongoing contact with the children and the non-custodial parent. This could and often does include daily contact via Skype, Face Time or other social media and prolonged visitation when the children are not in school.