Absent written agreement of both spouses, permission of the court is required.
Removal of children from the Commonwealth is governed, generally, by G.L. c. 208, § 30, which provides that children, if under an age at which they are capable of granting or withholding consent themselves, may be removed by consent of both parents or, failing that, by order of the court “upon cause shown.” What this means is that before a court will consider a request to permanently take the children outside of the Commonwealth, the requesting parent must demonstrate that there is both a good and sound reason for the move, and the request is not motivated by a desire to deprive the other spouse of parenting time. Even if each of these initial tests is met, the court may still deny the request if it finds that the proposed relocation would not be in the children’s best interests.
In the process, appellate decisions illustrate that the court should consider, among other things: (a) whether and how the quality of the children’s lives may be impacted by the change (including any improvement flowing from an improvement in the quality of the custodial parent’s life), (b) the possible adverse effects of the elimination or curtailment of the children’s association and relationship with their non-custodial parent, (c) the extent to which moving or not moving will affect the emotional, physical, or developmental needs of the children, including whether their relationship with siblings will be impacted, (d) whether the requesting parent’s financial security will be diminished or improved by the move (such as with a new or better job or as a result of a remarriage), (e) whether the children’s association with extended family members will be facilitated or curtailed, (f) the interests of the custodial parent, and whether a relocation will bring him closer to (or farther from) his support network of friends and family, (g) the interests of the non-custodial parent; and (h) the availability of reasonable, alternate visitation arrangements.
A similar analysis also applies (and prior agreement or court permission is required) if one parent seeks to relocate to another municipality within Massachusetts if that relocation would “disrupt significantly” the then existing parenting plan.
While each case is unique, any parent thinking about relocating would be wise to consider and gather evidence on such things as: the educational systems both here and in the new, proposed locale, the cultural opportunities available, the proximity to family and friends, the availability to and proximity of medical facilities and specialists, crime rates, housing costs and other similar considerations.